When two highly competitive New York City squads battle it out with their backs against the wall, it always proves to be an explosive matchup.
So, it was no surprise that the game between New Heights (Sophs) and Long Island Lightning on Saturday at the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic in Jamaica, N.Y. would underscore the true aggressive and competitive nature of the tournament. Looking to keep alive its chances of being playoff-bound, in its last contest of the pool-play portion of the iS8, New Heights (Sophs) fought to survive.
However, instead of finishing pool play 3-1, as it had hoped it would, New Heights (Sophs) closed out the iS8 2-2 this season. Meanwhile, L.I. Lightning, which has one more game left in pool play, held onto a raging bull ride long enough to edge its opponent 65-60.
New Heights found a nice groove in the first quarter, leading L.I. Lightning by eight points, 24-16 by the close of the period. And, the second phase was like the first, as New Heights did just enough to keep the Lightning grounded. The Bronx, N.Y.-based squad did just enough to lead by eight points again, 31-23, on a bucket by Tyler Whitehead (seven points) midway through the quarter.
Still, L.I. Lightning could not be completely contained, creeping within one possession and taking the lead 35-33 after Kuran Iverson (game-high 23 points) completed the conventional three-point play. Iverson would later extend his team's advantage to five points, 38-33, before halftime.
In a game where every possession mattered because scoring was difficult, a five-point deficit was a lot. And, recognizing the intense battle it was experiencing, New Heights used the third quarter to recover and work on obtaining its own advantage. On a one-of-two performance by Whitehead before the close of the period, New Heights earned a one-point advantage, 48-47.
A string of offense from New Heights (Sophs), including a 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter, gave the team a nice cushion late in the game. After holding an advantage of six points, 53-47, with some help from Jalen Jenkins (nine points), New Heights used a 3-2 zone to shut out the competition from inside scoring opportunities.
The Long Island team made a way for itself, declaring the zone moot with a jumper. Yet, New Heights was still sitting on a nice point cushion that grew a little later to seven points, 56-49, with some contributions from Whitehead and teammate Malik Harmon (10 points).
Iverson and company worked the deficit down to only one point, 57-56, with a 7-1 mini-run. And, with 2:02 left in regulation, Daniel Dingle (14 points) regained the lead for the L.I. Lightning 58-57.
New Heights' Jenkins tied the matchup at 58, but a 3-pointer from the Lightning would give the Long Island squad the lead for good. New Heights was able to creep within one point, 61-60, down the stretch, but four L.I. Lightning free throws in the final 25 seconds would go unanswered by the Bronx, N.Y. team.
As a result of the win, L.I. Lightning clinches the top seed in the North division, while New Heights (Sophs) is in a three-way tie for second place, posting a 2-2 standing.
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