MANHATTAN, NY - In Sunday's PSAL Semifinals at CUNY, Brooklyn was out to prove that it still reigns supreme when it comes to H.S. basketball with Lincoln and Jefferson looking to get to the Garden, but standing in their way was Wings and Curtis respectively.
Both games were going to be hard fought with a trip to MSG on the line. Would Brooklyn powers once again prevail? Or would Wings and Curtis send shock waves throughout the PSAL?
Abraham Lincoln snaps off Wings 65-60
On paper not many gave Wings a shot. Lincoln was the best team in the Brooklyn AA. Wings Academy wasn't tested like they would be against the Railsplitters people said. Well all those people were wrong. Wings played what might have been there best game of the year for almost 28 minutes. It's just in those last 4 minutes, they struggled with turnovers and missed shots, and Lincoln took advantage to clip Wings, 65-60.
A tight first quarter made those in attendance start to wonder if Wings was going to be trouble. The 2nd quarter made that question be answered with a yes. Jaequan Brown was causing problems all over the floor, hitting on a three from the wing, and getting out in the open in transition and slashing down the lane. He had 12 in the first half, and with the shooting touch of Marvilio Berroa from the perimeter, Wings went to the half up 35-30.
A couple of things were working against Lincoln here. They were not playing at the pace or tempo they wanted, and Isaiah Whitehead was struggling from the floor, not getting to the rim and finishing with the ease he is accustomed to. Railsplitters coach Dwayne Morton wasn't worried though knowing his team is truly more than just Whitehead.
"We had experienced this before. We had games where Isaiah struggled, but he is not a selfish player, and I knew he would help others get going." Morton said.
That's exactly what happened in the 3rd. With Whitehead understanding that he was not on his game offensively, he dished and found others for easy shots. One beneficiary was Elijah Davis. He was aggressive getting to the rim and really took control scoring 8 of the teams first 11 points in the quarter to help Lincoln retake the lead at 41-39. It was their first lead since 17-16 in the 1st, and Davis credited the added aggression to his coach.
"Coach told me to get to the rim and take over like he believes I can, so that's what I did." Davis said.
The added fire and aggression helped Lincoln take a 46-42 lead into the 4th, but there was still a lot of game to play, and Wings was not about to go away.
Wings could've rolled over and said we gave it our best but they came back so we're done now, but they continued to fight. Randy Corporan hit a big three to pull Wings within 1 with 4:22 to go, and after Shaquille Davis fouled out for the Railsplitters, Brown converted on a spinning drive in the lane to give Wings the lead back at 53-52 with 2:46 to go.
It was a big possession next time down for Lincoln. Would the ball go to Whitehead? Davis? Maybe Desi Rodriguez? No, it went into the hands of junior A.J. Williams who calmly got into the lane and finished down the left side to give Lincoln back the lead. Williams, who isn't known for scoring much, didn't lack confidence when he name was called.
"I was in after Shaq fouled out and I was in to control the game and that's what I tried to do, and we ended up making big plays when it mattered so that was great." Williams said.
It gave Lincoln back the lead and sparked them on both offense and defense as that started an 8-0 Lincoln run to really put the game away. A couple of late threes by Wings made the score close, but Lincoln proved to be just a bit better, squeaking by Wings 65-60.
Elijah Davis was the leading scorer for Lincoln was 20 on the night, with Williams adding 14, and Rodriguez and Whitehead each tallying 11 a piece.
For Wings, it was Brown who paced them with a game high 21 points, while Berroa and Desure Buie added 12 and 11 respectively.
It may not have been the prettiest way to win, but Lincoln advances to MSG next Saturday to play for the PSAL AA title, a fact that makes Davis, a transfer from St. Patrick's (NJ) proud.
"It was a great game today and to be able to get to the Garden is amazing. Being my first year here I want people to remember me. Lincoln has such a tradition, and I don't want to be known for losing so to win it for me would be huge." Davis said.
To win would be huge but for Wings coach Billy Turnage, the heartbreak is agonizing. It's 4 straight losses in the Semifinals now for Wings, and the little things will leave a mark yet again.
"The 3rd quarter hurt us. We made a couple defensive mistakes, we missed some big FT's too, and in a ball game like this in this round where every team is great it's all about the neck up, and unfortunately we made a couple of tough mistakes." the coach said.
While most would gladly make it to 4 straight Semifinals, Wings wants over that hump, and sooner or later, Turnage hopes his team can get there.
"People always ask me, would you rather lose earlier? I don't want to lose earlier, but this feeling hurts. It's like being so close yet so far." Turnage added.
He wants the feeling that Lincoln is having. Going to the Garden yet again where the Railsplitters have made a home for many years recently, and they once again hope to bring home the title.
"Absolutely we want it. We want the PSAL, the State, we want them all and hopefully we can do it." Morton said.
They want it all, and that will all start should they win the PSAL title on Saturday.
Thomas Jefferson crunches Curtis in 2nd half, 70-47
When a game is 36 all with 3:20 left in the 3rd quarter you don't expect one team to end up winning by 23, but that's exactly what happened as from the moment Curtis tied it up on an Hassan Martin putback they seemed more focused on defense, and seemed unstoppable from long range as they left no doubt as to how good they were, handling Curtis easily 70-47.
The game was tight for the first half with Jefferson only up 32-24 at the half. And that lead was erased early on with Martin dominating the glass getting putback after putback. The Warriors eventually tied the game at 36, and at that point Orange Wave senior Jermoine Faison knew things had to change.
"They came out with more intensity to start the 3rd. They crashed the boards and were getting every rebound, try were beating us up the floor in transition, and they had momentum. Coach put it of us at that point to play harder or we were going home." Faison said.
That was the turning point. Khalil Jackson scored down low and was fouled on the ensuing possession. Jaquan Lynch came up firing as well knocking down 3 huge threes as well helping set the pace and dictate tempo as Jefferson closed the 3rd on a 21-7 run to go up 57-43 after 4 after being tied at 36 just minutes early. The offensive barrage was all a part of just another run according to Jefferson coach Lawrence "Bud" Pollard.
"We started out strong and they fought back so to me this was just another run in the game. Those shots by Lynch though really seemed to get not just our offense going, but seemed to spark our defense as well. They seemed to get tired too and missed a lot of shots and we couldn't seem to miss." Pollard said.
They truly couldn't miss. 8 threes in the final 11 minutes of the game helped Jefferson extend the lead and coast home to a 70-47 win.
Jefferson was led by Lynch's 20 points, with Nazai Stokes adding 14. Martin was Curtis' top man with 19 in defeat.
It's a great feeling for the Orange Wave players to get back to the Garden, but their goals this year included more than just getting there according to Faison.
"Last year we were just hyped and excited to get to the Garden. This year that didn't matter. Getting there isn't enough. All we care about in the championship." Faison said.
Winning the championship would be huge, and getting a chance at redemption for last year's title game loss to Boys and Girls is even bigger, but Pollard admitted that playing the game at MSG really doesn't do much for him.
"I could care less if this game was played at the Garden, St. John's, Lincoln, Jefferson, the projects, wherever. All I care about is the Gold Ball. That's all I want and wherever it's played it meaningless to me." Pollard said.
The Gold Ball, the trophy that goes to the PSAL champion will be decided next Saturday afternoon. Who will get it remains to be seen, but what we do know is that it should be another Brooklyn classic.
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