Conrad McRae Pool Play Finale
BROOKLYN, NY- Sunday was the final day of the regular season for the Conrad McRae Youth League with many of the top high school teams from New York City taking the court for the last time before next weekend's playoffs get underway.
A pair of CHSAA teams with high hopes this year took to the court for two games each as both Nazareth and Mount St. Michael looked to impress and lock themselves into playoff spots.
It proved to be a great afternoon and early evening of basketball from Brooklyn, and here's a recap of how those games went as we now ready for next weekend's playoff run toward the end of summer basketball.
John Bowne Thumps Nazareth, 72 - 64
While many felt as if a shorthanded John Bowne squad wouldn't have enough to handle the firepower and high octane offense of the Kingsmen it was a stellar performance from the Wildcats as guard Amadou Diallo '21 had 14 of his team high 18 points in the opening half to lead Bowne to the 72-64 victory.
Both teams were going at each other offensively in the early going with each attacking the rim whenever they had the chance with the game tied at 16 with a little more than 9 minutes to go in the half.
That's when Bowne began to apply a bit more pressure on the ball which allowed the likes of Diallo and Darren Joyner '20 to use their defensive prowess to create a number of Nazareth mistakes which in turn led to a 12-0 Wildcats run to see them go up by double digits in just over a 3:30 span.
Playing without the likes of Cherif Diarra '20 and Tyshawn Trail '21 because of a vacation and an injury respectively the Wildcats weren't at full strength but they were playing great defense, using their physicalness inside to score around the rim, and doing a good job making sure each Nazareth possession was contested.
Ziare Wells '21 was the standout for Nazareth in the opening half as he had 13, 8 of which came during a late 10-1 Kingsmen run that saw the Bowne lead pushed down to 38-34 at the break.
Momentum seemed firmly on the side of Nazareth heading into the second half as both teams came into this one 3-1 and were aiming for the #2 seed in their pool behind New Jersey power The Patrick School who finished the regular season at 5-0. The Kingsmen came out of the half hot with Dontae Prescott '21 blowing by the defense of Bowne on more than one occasion, and then an alley oop from Prescott to T.J. Morris '21 finally put Nazareth over the top as they would take a 56-50 lead with 7:10 to play.
Credit has to go to John Bowne though as they seemed to be losing steam but never quit and rallied back as Joyner was able to pull up and knock down a couple midrange jumpers off the dribble, and Aguibou Balde '21 who is normally a rugged finisher inside showed that he could stretch out as he hit on a strong long range jumpers to put the Wildcats back on top.
Nazareth, who normally are among the better perimeter shooting teams that you will find, struggled a bit from the outside which in turn led to easy Bowne trips up the court for buckets in transition, and while the Kingsmen didn't play badly in this one it was Bowne who just played a bit better as along with Diallo's 18 it was Joyner scoring 17, with Balde adding 13 in the 72-64 win for the Queens PSAL power.
Nazareth Regroups; Tops Boys and Girls, 60 - 51
With Kingsmen head coach Tiny Morton squaring off against one of his main foes from when he was at Abraham Lincoln in the Kangaroos of Boys & Girls it was like back to 2005 again as Nazareth went up big early, and while they did allow Boys back into the game, Nazareth never seemed to be in danger of losing this one, defeating the PSAL Brooklyn AA school, 60-51.
It was all about Prescott in the early going here as the junior guard was able to do whatever he wanted against the Kangaroos defense. He was consistently getting himself to the basket where against contact it seemed Prescott thrived most. When the defense wasn't allowing him to get inside Prescott would pull up and knock down perimeter shots from all over showing he could score in a variety of ways as well.
Prescott had 18 points in the opening half, nearly outscoring Boys and Girls all by himself as Nazareth scored the first 12 points of the game and were rolling with ease to a 38-20 lead at the break.
Maybe it was because Nazareth had such a big lead they took their foot off the gas a bit but as the second half wore on it was the Kangaroos getting better and better looks, especially in transition as the defensive intensity wasn't there for Nazareth allowing Gerald St. Laurent '21 for Boys & Girls to get easy buckets in the opening floor as the guard had 18 points for his team in the second half to see a one Nazareth 18 point halftime lead chipped all the way down to 7 with 1:42 to go.
Mohamadou Diarrah '20 was a finisher inside for Boys as well as he was able to dominate the paint to the tune of a good amount of second chance opportunities, but with Ikenna Ude-Smith '21 finishing above the rim from a number of strong Prescott feeds late it was Nazareth who wouldn't be denied.
Finishing with a game high 25 points was Prescott while Ude-Smith had 15 as well in what was a 1-1 day for Nazareth after they held on for the 60-51 win to knock off fellow Brooklyn school Boys & Girls.
Bedford Academy Edges Mount St. Michael, 58 - 55
It was not a very good day for the Bronx CHSAA school in Mount St. Michael as playing without their star in Ibrahim Wattara '20 it meant a younger Mountaineers team looking to take on a pair of upstarts from the PSAL.
Mount needed just 1 win from their two games to move onto next weekend's playoffs, but that proved to be a tougher than expected assignment with Bedford coming back late in this one to steal one from the Mountaineers and take the win.
This was the game that Mount thought was there's as the Mountaineers led 23-13 at the half with Noah Best '22 showing off his smooth ability to knock down shots off the bounce, while young freshman Javoy Thompson '23 had 8 early to propel the Bronx team into the lead.
That lead didn't stick though in large part due to the play of guard Ethan Edwards '20 as the 5'10" guard may have only had 6 points in the first half, but he would pour in 21 points in the second half, showing that he had no issues going right at the defense helping Bedford slowly but surely chip away at the Mount lead.
Jordan Newsome '21 and Jaylen Gilmore '20 did a good job around the rim for Bedford Academy as well, and while Malik Pringle '20 tried to keep Mount afloat from the charity stripe, the moments had fully swung and with 3:44 to go it was an Edwards floater that gave Bedford their first lead.
They wouldn't relinquish the lead after that as Newsome hit a pair of clutch FT's late and a last second Best heave wouldn't fall that would've sent the game to OT as the PSAL Class A power shocked Mount, coming back from as many as 15 down to take down the Mountaineers, 58-55.
George Westinghouse Flattens Mount St. Michael, 54 - 36
If the first game didn't go Mount's way this one never got going on the right track from the start as outside of Best no one found any offensive rhythm from the Mountaineers.
Unlike Mount St. Michael's game against Bedford where it was a balanced offensive effort, Best was the only scorer in double figures in this one scoring 19 of the Mountaineers 36 points, while for Westinghouse, especially as the game wore on, they found it easy to do nearly whatever they wanted.
Ebenezer Ofei '21 was a brute and tough finisher inside as he would had 15 to lead the way for Westinghouse, but it was him Matthew Medley '22 and Elijah Nedd '21, a trio of JV players from a year ago all of whom look to have a lot of promise who led the way as they outscored Mount 27-18 in each half to comfortably take a 54-36 victory to finish off the Mountaineers chances at a Conrad McRae Youth League playoff berth.