BAYSIDE, N.Y. -- Sometimes a championship matchup goes to the wire; other times, the meeting is like Game 5 of the NBA Finals, where the winner is clearly decided early in the contest.
The Beacon M.S. 158 Spring Fling was an example of the latter, as Benjamin Cardozo shot off to an early advantage and maintained a stranglehold of the game to the end. The Judges came away with a whopping 70-35 victory over St. Francis Prep at Marie Curie Middle School 158 on Tuesday.
Both squads came into the game undefeated, looking to polish off the plate with another victory en route to being crowned kings of the tournament. Though some were expecting the contest to be a hardwood battle for the title, Cardozo had other plans in mind.
Proving to leave it all on the floor in both high-profile and low-radar tournaments, the Judges -- the 2014 PSAL 'AA' champions -- took an early 13-4 lead by the 15:15 of the first half behind the leadership of floor general Elijah McNeely ('15).
Paced by Tareq Coburn's ('16) 3-point contributions, Cardozo was able to cash in with 10 unanswered points to hold a 23-4 advantage over the Terriers. Ultimately, by the 10-minute mark, St. Francis was still in single digits, trailing by 18 points, 27-9.
Although the Terriers' Connor Bacci ('15) and Shane Herrity ('15) were toughing it out with hard-to-make jumpers and aggressive baskets to the hole, the Judges, as a whole, out-hustled the competition for loose balls and rebounds. The steady presences of Armando Dunn ('15) and Tahiyr Vines ('16) on the inside allowed Cardozo to make high-percentage shot attempts a risk for St. Francis.
Though teammate guard Rashond Salnave ('16) did not play in the opening minutes of the game, per coach's decision, he quickly made his presence felt when he stepped foot on the hardwood.
Over the course of eight minutes, St. Francis Prep was able to outscore the Judges only 9-2 following the completion of the conventional three-point play by Bacci. That sequence brought the Terriers within 11 points, 29-18.
Yet Cardozo, which was not lacking offensive options, kept up its usual grind. Amir Tutt ('16) became a force to be reckoned with, knocking down some 3's and elevating high to block a Terriers' shot-attempt.
As a result, an 11-0 run in the final two minutes of the stanza carved out a 22-point lead, 40-18, for the Judges by halftime.
Although some spectators were expecting a comeback by St. Francis Prep like it did against Boys & Girls H.S. (Brooklyn, N.Y.) the day before to win the semifinals, because of the deeper hole it was in, the Terriers would stage no repeat performance.
On an up-and-under by Tutt, Cardozo extended its advantage to 25 points, 45-20, at the 18:50 mark of the second half. Within 49 seconds, St. Francis' Bacci followed it up with a 3-pointer and a deuce to cut a sliver out of the deficit and make it a 20-point differential, 45-25.
Through solid ball movement, the Terriers seemed to be able to get those touches to Bacci so, on the next possession, another member of the St. Francis squad netted a basket to come within 18 points, 45-27, with about 17 minutes left in the game. However, because the Judges caught on and swallowed up the passing lanes with strong defense that would be the closest St. Francis would get for the duration of the contest.
As Cardozo continued to play its game, forcing turnovers and outrebounding the Terriers for more possessions, the Judges incrementally extended their advantage to 30 points, 63-33, by the 4:57 mark of the second half.
To add to St. Francis' woes of multiple scoring options to defend, during the flow of the game, Judges' rising freshman guard Marcus Hammond ('18) stroked two 3-pointers from deep, which included one at the 2:35 mark that prompted spectators to yell for referees to call the game after a 33-point lead, 68-35, was reached.
Cardozo's Tutt led all scorers with 18 points, while McNeely posted 12 points. Teammates Dunn and Salnave each added nine, while Coburn and Hammond recorded eight and six points, respectively. St. Francis Prep's Bacci netted 12 points and teammate Herrity had eight points in the loss.