BAYSIDE, NY - Coming to a close, the Beacon M.S. 158 Spring Fling held its semifinal matchups Monday evening at Middle School 158 Marie Curie. The winners of each contest will tip-off in the championship on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The squads showed that they deserved to play in the tourney's final four. However, when the dust settled after the hardwood battles, there could be only two teams standing.
Let's take a look at the two games.
ST. FRANCIS STAGES GRITTY COMEBACK VS. BOYS & GIRLS, 63-59
St. Francis Prep (Queens, N.Y.), which went undefeated in pool play, found itself rivaling the stiff competition of Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.). As both squads used standard zones to slow the other's offensive grind, the game remained close.
However, the length of 6-foot-5 Jaquan Lightfoot ('16) was unmatched in the paint and served as a deterrence to frequent penetration. That, along with some buckets from guard Gianni Ford ('16), carved out a 7-0 surge that started to create some space between the squads. By the 9:20 mark of the first half, the Kangaroos were leading by four points, 24-20.
Yet, with the focused efforts of the St. Francis Prep's Shane Herrity ('15), the Terriers knotted the matchup at 27 with less than seven minutes remaining in the stanza.
The momentum immediately shifted in favor of Boys & Girls, as the tough play of guard Nehemiah Boone ('16), coupled with the long and lanky Lightfoot's active hands around the rim for boards, blocks and deflections, allowed the Kangaroos to go on a 14-4 surge in the final six minutes of the first half.
With St. Francis Prep limited to just one consistent scoring option in Herrity, it seemed as if the competition was going to close the case early and steal this game.
Boys & Girls were leading by 10 points, 41-31, by the break.
The second stanza appeared to be more of the same when the Kangaroos extended their advantage to 13 points, 45-32, by the 15:36 mark of the half.
Through it all, the Terriers remained poised.
Herrity maintained his hardwood hustle, as his teammates began to get scrappy, diving on the floor for loose balls while utilizing zone-breaking plays to the high post for buckets. St. Francis Prep's Herrity, Connor Bacci ('15) and teammates worked as a unit, breaking the hold of the Kangaroos, chipping away at its deficit and taking a two-point lead, 49-47, on a 3-pointer.
The 17-point turnaround took place over a course of seven minutes, putting the Terriers in a position to build a substantial advantage. St. Francis nabbed a six-point cushion, 55-49, by the 4:04 mark of the half, maintaining that margin until the two-minute mark.
Boys & Girls attempted to shut off the water, squeezing its way through small driving lanes to the basket. Still, the desperation began to show as time drained from the clock in accordance with the Beacon's running clock rule.
The Kangaroos then cut the deficit to three points, 60-57 with just under a minute left to play. Boone brought his team to within a point of the competition after he forced his way to the rack through a narrow gap in the defense with 17.9 seconds remaining.
That would be the closest margin between the two teams in the game's final seconds, as the Terriers tacked on three more points before time expired.
St. Francis Prep's Herrity recorded a game-high 24 points, while Bacci had 13 points. Boys & Girls' Boone and Ford each posted 17 points in the loss, while teammates Darryl Adams and Joseph Nicolas ('16) added nine and five points, respectively.
CARDOZO DEPTH LIFTS SQUAD OVER ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, 44-36
St. John the Baptist (Long Island, N.Y.) had much control over the early minutes of the first half, shooting off to a six-point lead, 6-0, following a 3-pointer, a deuce and a pair of free throws from Tyler Damas ('16) and Chris Kelly ('17).
Benjamin Cardozo (Queens, N.Y.), the 2014 PSAL 'AA' champion, divided up its scoring options for the first and second half -- only a few players received the opportunity to play in both halves. The first-half team hustled back, quickly tying the matchup at six at the 13:23 mark.
St. John the Baptist inched ahead by two more when Kelly drained free throws at the stripe. The Judges quickly answered, attaining a five-point advantage, 18-13, following a mini surge that included a silky 3-pointer from Rashond Salnave ('16).
Later, Cardozo's Tareq Coburn ('16), Armando Dunn ('15) and Salnave helped lift the team to a nine-point lead, 28-19, by halftime.
St. John the Baptist attempted to come out in the second half with a different approach as Cougars' Tavon Ginyard ('15) became very aggressive in attacking the basket. He aided his team in cutting the deficit down to six points, 32-26.
However, since Cardozo was now going with its second-half squad, St. John the Baptist also had to not only battle with the number of options on the floor but also the second group's fresh legs. Coburn and Dunn -- members of the first group of Judges -- saw some minutes in the second half as well.
As a result, the Judges' advantage grew to as much as 14 points, 40-26, with about six minutes left in the game. The revolving door of fresh legs and the pushed tempo of Cardozo, changed the rhythm of the game, which seemingly forced the Cougars out of their comfort zone.
Ultimately, St. John the Baptist was not able to climb out of the hole.
Benjamin Cardozo was led in scoring by the 12 points of Coburn. Teammate Dunn netted eight points, while Salnave and Tahiyr Vines ('16) each had seven points. St. John the Baptist's Kelly finished with a game-high 14 points. Teammates Ginyard and Damas had nine and five points, respectively.