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Cardozo Swarms Jefferson in PSAL Semis

JAMAICA, NY - Cardozo had to go through Brooklyn the last time they won the PSAL Championship. This season, they would have to do the same thing if they wanted to win a city title. Cardozo tipped off against Jefferson in the semi-finals of this year’s PSAL playoffs at Carnesecca Arena. Jefferson was the #2 seed this year, while Cardozo was seeded right behind them at #3.

The way seedings work, this was supposed to be the end of the line for Cardozo. They were expected to get to this part of the bracket and they did that. For Cardozo to go any further, there would have to be an upset. When the game ended, Cardozo was the team with the higher score, but it wasn’t an upset.

Cardozo beat a tough Jefferson team 79-67 to get to the PSAL championship game. However, they earned it and looked like the better team when all was said and done. The Judges dominated on the offensive boards and scrambled everywhere for loose balls, which ultimately let them gain the momentum that they sustained until the final buzzer.

Dejavaughn Utley
Dejavaughn Utley (R. Rozier)

Senior Dejavaughn Utley and junior Jaylen Davis both had huge second halves on the offensive end. Utley scored 18 points, while Davis scored 13 in the half. Utley was a monster, finishing inside multiple times, with some buckets coming from offensive rebounds. The entire team started to capitalize on the 2nd chances they were getting. Even when Jefferson was able to defend and get Cardozo to miss the shot attempt, the ball ended up in a Cardozo players hands.

Cardozo really gained control early in the 4th quarter. Jefferson sophomore Marcus Burnett scored on a fast-break to make the score 52-50 one minute into the period. After Utley made a pair of free throws, senior Marcus Hammond put the Jefferson defender in a blender and took him one-on-one, finishing with a nasty floater. The next score from the Judges made the arena erupt in emotion. Senior Collins Onyeike went far above the rim to dunk very hard on a couple of Jefferson players. It was a violent two-handed dunk right in front of the Judges bench. Everyone on the bench jumped to their feet when Onyeike (12 points) dunked it and put Cardozo ahead 58-51 with about 5 and a half minutes left in the game.

Jaylen Davis
Jaylen Davis (R. Rozier)

Jefferson couldn’t get back into the game because collectively, they couldn’t make many shots in the 4th quarter. Cardozo went to the charity stripe constantly in the period, and they made it count when they got there. They got to the line 22 times in the last 8 minutes and they made 18 of the freebies. That was more than enough to keep a cold shooting Jefferson team at bay.

Utley was the team’s high scorer with 22 points and 7 boards. Davis made some clutch shots and mixed up his drives and perimeter shots well as he finished with 18. Hammond had 11 points and 4 assists, while Jalen Soto was strong inside with 9 points and 7 rebounds for the winners.

Kareem Welch played like a demon for the Orange Wave the entire game. He kept the pressure on all 32 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to guide his teammates to the promised land. The junior guard scored a game high 27 points, while sophomore Marcus Bennett had 17. Both players made 3 triples each.

Cardozo outplayed Jefferson. You can’t say Jefferson played bad because it was Cardozo that made them play that way. Brooklyn is known for being tough to play against, and the reputation is well deserved. Last weekend, after Cardozo beat Boys & Girls to get to this past Sunday, head coach Ron Naclerio wouldn’t disagree with you if you said Queens was soft. He might not disagree with you if you thought his own team was soft.

But those kids didn’t play soft against Jefferson. They were just as tough as Jefferson was, but they ended up getting almost everything they wanted in the paint. For the second week in a row, Cardozo ended a Brooklyn team’s season. Sunday’s game was no upset.

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