Brooklyn may not have gotten the match-up it expected in its PSAL title game, but the borough's deserving champion was crowned nonetheless.
NYC Hoops #1 Lincoln overpowered an unexpected and stubborn finalist in Jefferson, 87-66 on Saturday to capture the PSAL Brooklyn championship at Hunter College.
Jefferson, which toppled NYC Hoops #3 Boys & Girls to reach Saturday's final, fought off some early jitters and challenged Lincoln throughout the first half. After the break though, the voluminous Railsplitter weaponry eventually overwhelmed the Orange Wave.
Lincoln jumped out to a 7-2 lead at 5:55 in the first on a Vincent Council pull-up, but Jefferson bounced back with a 6-0 run in the next 49 seconds. The Railsplitters, unmoved, countered with a 12-0 stretch to go ahead 19-8 with 1:43 remaining.
From there though, Jefferson inched back into the game, and a fast break lay-up by freshman Davontay Grace cut the Lincoln lead to 25-22 with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
Lincoln went back up by five on a pair of Khalif Staten free throws, but soon thereafter, Jefferson would trim the Lincoln bulge down to one. Junior guard Keith Spellman hit a baseline runner off the glass with 1:40 left in the half to make it just a 29-28 advantage for the Railsplitters.
Lance Stephenson hit a turnaround jumper with four seconds to go in the half to make it 36-32 Lincoln heading into the locker room, but Jefferson had proven that it wasn't a finalist by happenstance.
In tight situations, many expect Lincoln to be catalyzed by Stephenson or the daunting frontcourt of Justin Greene and James Padgett. In the second half on Saturday though, it was little Darwin "Buddha" Ellis who carried the Railsplitters to victory.
The 5'8" junior, scoreless through the first half, nailed a pair of three-pointers in the first 1:30 of the third quarter to spark a 13-3 Lincoln run that put the Railsplitters ahead 49-35. The Orange Wave put together a 6-0 spurt to come within eight, but Ellis answered with a pair of free throws to push the Lincoln lead back into double digits.
Jefferson had a chance to cut it to nine, but Spellman blew what would have been a thunderous dunk on a breakaway. The Railsplitters went on to lead 57-45 at the end of three, and their advantage wouldn't shrink below 12 points the rest of the way.
After the game, Ellis, who won the game's MVP behind 17 points, noted that the Railsplitters' never panic attitude is borne out of experience."This really is nothing new to my team," said Ellis. "We play every game like it's our last."
While Ellis enjoyed the victory, he couldn't hide his disappointment in not getting another shot at rival Boys & Girls, who rallied to upset Lincoln on February 5, in Saturday's final.
"I want my win back," Ellis said. Lincoln head coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton credited Ellis and his fellow guards for the win. "I don't really think it was our frontline that did it today," Morton said. "I think the game got turned around when I went small and started pressing."
Morton went on to say that Lincoln's dominance in the borough remains rewarding, mainly for his players. "It's not for me," Morton said. "That's why it doesn't get old. It's for the kids that are playing … I'm not winning for me right now."
Greene tallied 17 points for the Railsplitters, and Stephenson added 16. Grace led the way for Jefferson with 19 points, forward Joel Wright scored 18 and Spellman contributed 16 for the Orange Wave.