BAYSIDE, NY - Cardozo has seen a lot of challengers come their way over the years, and the new challenger is H.S. of Construction.
The Red Hawks are new to the AA this season and with a good nucleus of players, they were expected to be right there challenging the Judges right away this season, but on Friday night, in a game that had 1st place in Queens in the line, Cardozo proved their supremacy, beating Construction with ease, 82-56.
Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio has been through the ringer more than a few times in the past 30 years, and understand that people and teams come at the Judges. Cardozo having been atop for so long, the coach knows that when another school in Queens gets good, that it's the Judges who they are after.
"I've been doing this for so long. Campus Magnet was a rival for a long time, then Forest Hills for a few years, then Bayside last year, and right now it's Construction that are trying to get on our tails and bite us in the behind," Naclerio said.
It was up to him to get a game plan in order to deny the Red Hawks the chance at winning the Queens AA in their 1st year up, with a win Friday locking up the 1 seed in the boroughs for Cardozo.
While they came out a bit sluggish in the first half, the Judges were still up 6 at the break and Naclerio said he had seen this script before, and just wanted to make it a repeat.
"At the half we were up 5 at the half at their place, and we were up 6 here so I said let's hope we get that Cardozo run," Naclerio added.
That's exactly what happened. Rashond Salnave started to get hot from the perimeter, Marzuq Jimoh attacked the rim, while also showing good range, and Carl Balthazar was a beast defensively in the paint, swatting any shot that came his way.
A 6 point halftime lead swelled to 15 in the 3rd quarter, and Salnave admitted that Naclerio's fiery ways on the sideline really pumped the team up when they needed it.
"Yeah of course we don't like it when he yells at us, but when he does it pushes us, and when we needed that push, he gave it to us," Salnave said.
Cardozo piled it on in the 4th going up by as much as 29 in the final quarter. It all happened so quick, the lead growing to that amount even surprised Naclerio a bit.
"I looked up and I was like wow when it got up to 28 or 29 there in the 4th," Naclerio Sid with a smile.
Even when the subs entered the game, it was Tareq Coburn who still proved a big offensive lift, as Cardozo really put an exclamation point as to who is tops in Queens right now with an emphatic 82-56 victory.
Salnave led all scorers with 21 points, while Jimoh had 14, and Balthazar added 13 points and 14 rebounds.
It was an important win because it gave Cardozo the Queens crown for another season, and while Naclerio has won a lot of these, he says each one is just as special, and he looked back to the past for a couple of minutes afterward to reflect on just how much each player has meant over his tenure.
"We have been the King of Queens for years, but what the kids presently and past have done is incredible," Naclerio said. "For us to be going so strong after 30 years is a real tribute to every kid who has put on the uniform."
Justin Wright-Foreman led the way for Construction with 19 points, while Marlon Alcindor added 17, and while Red Hawks head coach Cory Semper wasn't thrilled with the result, he feels this has still be a great year overall for his group.
"We are alright," Semper said. "Of course they will be upset tonight, but you got to have a short memory. We got a game back here tomorrow and hopefully we will see Cardozo again in the borough championship and we will go from there."
It was a big win that puts Cardozo in a great position the rest of the way, but what Salnave wants is more than just tops in Queens, he is gunning for Brooklyn's best, and the sophomore feels that they have the game to dethrone the champs.
"After that St. Anthony's game in the SNY Tournament, we proved to ourselves and everyone who was watching that we can beat Lincoln. Lincoln is our main goal right now. Winning Queens is good and of course we want to run through that, but our main goal now is Lincoln."