BROOKLYN, NY - The opening round of the Conrad McRae Youth League playoffs took place at Dean Street Park in on Saturday.
While a number of games proved to be uncompetitive, there were a few tight and close contests mixed in, along with one upset that sent huge shock waves through the massive crowd in attendance. Here is a recap of the day's action, along with a look at Sunday's quarterfinal games as we near the end of the summer basketball season.
Wings Academy Backs-Up Boys & Girls, 54-47
Without the services of star big man, Georgetown bound Jessie Govan '15, Wings got off to a sluggish start. They were missing guard Randy Corporan '15 for the first half as well, and that limited what Wings seemed to want to do on both sides of the floor, and while floor general Desure Buie '15 had the hot hand early on, he struggled to find secondary scoring options, and as he started to become doubled by the Kangaroos defense, the offensive output as a team started to dwindle.
It was a 14-10 Boys and Girls lead after 1, and in the 2nd quarter, the Kangaroos started to pour it on as guard Gianni Ford '16 could not be stopped. Even with a Buie guarding him, Ford was able to get to the basket backing in, while he was lethal from behind the arc connecting on 4 first half three, finishing with 19 first half points, and Boys looked poised for the upset, up 33-24 at the half.
Corporan arrived right before the half, and was inserted into the game early in the 3rd quarter, and immediately he was switched onto Ford, and his defensive intensity made a big difference as the aggressive tone of the game changed as he was an on ball physical threat, and denied Ford's ability to attack the basket as much as he had.
Big man Jaquan Lightfoot '16 was a solid post presence inside for Boys and Girls as his ability to clean up the glass and give the Kangaroos second chance opportunities inside kept them up after three, 41-35, but Ford was held to just 5 in the quarter, and with Buie starting to find more space in the lane, it seemed like the momentum was shifting back to the Bronx power.
That's exactly what happened as early in the 4th, Wings reeled off the first 7 points, with Buie scoring on a pair of floaters in the lane to give them their first lead of the game at 42-41. Corporan, who had been so solid defensively in the 2nd half, especially putting pressure on the ball and throwing off the Boys and Girls pick and roll sets, started to find an offensive rhythm as well. He banked a short jumper off the glass, and then went all the way for a driving lay up to put Wings up 7 with just over a minute to go.
Ford put up a couple of long threes that fell short, and Wings, who were down 9 at the half, rallied to outscored the Brooklyn "AA" powers 30-14 in the 2nd half to pull away for the 54-47 win.
Buie had a team high 18 with Corporan in just 16 minutes of play, scoring 10 for Wings.
Ford showed just how potent he could be as well in this one pouring in a game high 26 points in the defeat, but he did put the PSAL on notice in this one that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Bishop Loughlin Checks Cardozo, 68-58
With the Lions in complete turnover mode from last season's CHSAA Championship Game run, this was expected to be a rebuilding year, but if this game showed anything, it's that someone forgot to tell Loughlin that they are not supposed to be up to this level this season, as Keith Williams '17 stole the show and led the 15 seed Lions to a major upset of Cardozo.
Cardozo had most of its players show up late due to other obligations so the game started late, and the Judges were put in a 4-0 hole before the game had even begun. Not many felt that would be an issue for the defending PSAL Champs though, as they brought most of their key pieces from last year's team, though they were without Elijah McNeely '15 in this one for undisclosed reasons.
While it was expected to be the Rashond Salnave '16 show, with the Cardozo guard being the main attraction in this one, it proved to be Williams for the Lions who was the star, and the one everyone was talking about after the game.
Be it posting up a smaller guard and turning around and shooting over them, or just getting the ball on the perimeter and putting up the long range shot, Williams range, confidence, and ability to score in near any form or fashion was impressive. He scored 17 points in the opening half, and Khalil Muhammed '15 ran the point to near perfection as he pushed the tempo beautiful and was able to push tempo and really get Cardozo out of their element.
Salnave did start to find his shot late in the half after struggling early as he and Amir Tutt '16 were the leaders in starting to find an offensive rhythm to pull the Judges within 1 at the half.
It seemed that momentum had flipped, and when Cardozo took their first lead of the game on an Armando Dunn '15 putback halfway through the 3rd quarter, it seemed like the relatively young Lions would have to settle for being competitive, but they fought through the adversity they had found, and with Muhammed scoring 9 in the 3rd, they found themselves down by just 2 and in a ballgame with the Judges.
The 4th quarter started and while young and inexperienced in situations like this, the Lions showed that they were up to the occasion. Williams once again after a quiet 3rd quarter, came alive with 13 in the 4th, outscoring Cardozo all on his own, and along with Muhammed, they combined for the Lions 23 points in quarter, and shut down the potent Cardozo offensive attack, and were equally as solid defensively in causing the Judges to make bad passes, and take ill-timed shots. It was a 23-11 final quarter, and the young Lions may have come of age, upsetting Cardozo in this one 68-58.
Williams had a game high 32 points, and showed that he is truly one of the best rising sophomores in NYC. Muhammed also proved that he can handle the leadership role of this young Lions team, pacing the offense and adding in 24 points in the win.
In defeat, Salnave also proved to be one of NYC's top talents, leading the Judges with 18 points, while Tutt chipped in with 14 as well.
Abraham Lincoln Shuts-Off South Shore, 64-53
The Railsplitters may only have won by 11, but do not be deceived, from start to finish, they dominated this matchup, going up by as many as 26 in the 3rd quarter before South Shore made a run to make it respectable, but Lincoln showed in this one that even though they lost a ton to graduation, they are going to be there at the end once again this season.
There was no one player who necessarily took over and dominated for Lincoln, but P.J. Person '18 was a leader on the floor for the Railsplitters, showing poise and maturity running the floor well beyond his years, and his pull up jumper was a thing to behold in the opening half, helping Lincoln pull away early.
The guard play for the Vikings was lackluster in the opening half, and they struggled to connect from the FT line, or finish putbacks when given easy chances inside. Ryan Preston '15 once again showed his impressive athleticism when in the open floor, but his opportunities were too few and far between in this one.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Damarri Moore '16 really punctuated this one with three straight dunks, one of which got the crowd in a frenzy with its power as he came down the lane and threw down a putback hard to see Lincoln go in full control.
South Shore did make a run late, with big man Cori Johnson '16 showing a nice touch in the paint, but it was too much Lincoln as they once again made a statement that even with a new starting five, and a new head coach in Kenny Pretlow, that they will remain a force in the Brooklyn "AA" after a convincing win over their league rivals in the Vikings.
Moore, Person, and Ezekiel Charles '15 each had 12 points apiece to lead the way for Lincoln in the win, while Preston paced South Shore in the loss with a game high 18 points.
Other Opening Round Games from Saturday :
Thomas Jefferson 77- Valley Stream 41
The Patrick School (NJ) 68- Dean Street Foundation 46
Team Conrad 59- Campus Magnet 31
George Westinghouse 69- Eagle Academy 36
Bedford Academy 65- Paul Robeson 59
Sunday's Conrad McRae Youth League Quarterfinal Games from Dean Street in Brooklyn :
2:30pm- Thomas Jefferson vs. Bedford Academy
3:30pm- Abraham Lincoln vs. Team Conrad
4:30pm- George Westinghouse vs. Bishop Loughlin
5:30pm- The Patrick School (NJ) vs. Wings Academy