Brooklyn was definitely in the house on Friday night after NYCHoops #7 ranked Bishop Loughlin roared to its first number one seed in the CHSAA Brooklyn-Queens division since 1992 with an easy victory over St. Raymond's, 76-63, before a packed at home.
The convincing nature of the victory hinted that the Lions – previously as high as fourth in NYCHoops' rankings – have fully rebounded from losses to Rice and Holy Cross just in time for the CHSAA playoffs.
On what was senior night in Loughlin's Brooklyn gym, Lions' head coach Khalid Green began the game with his five departing seniors, only two of which regularly start. A benevolent gesture for sure, but also a nod to Loughlin's depth, which was on full display in its season finale.
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The staggering Ravens – who are just 5-5 since starting the season 13-0 -- regularly count on three scorers, but were playing just two on Friday, with a fever sidelining junior forward Kevin Parrom. Loughlin, however, has at least five legitimate scoring threats, all of which showed up against St. Ray's.
St. Raymond's took advantage of Loughlin defensive lapses early, leaping out to a 10-2 lead on a pull-up jumper by junior Omari Lawrence. The Lions, however, promptly responded with a 10-2 run of their own – behind six points from junior Trevon Hamlet – to even the score with 2:19 left in the first.
The Ravens led, 17-16 after one, but the second quarter, and subsequently the upper hand, belonged to Loughlin.
After the Lions went ahead by four, 24-20, St. Ray's rallied and retook the lead, 27-26 at the 3:12 mark. That was the last time the Ravens would sniff a lead though, as they began to hemorrhage turnovers and play more passively, partly due to a curious decision by the St. Raymond's coaching staff.
The usually press-happy Ravens were ordered to drop back into a half-court zone, which amounted to a death sentence versus the large and versatile Lion offense. Loughlin finished the second quarter on a 17-2 run -- getting points from five different players during the burst -- to go up 43-29 at the break.
Darryl Bryant, who scored only two points in the first half, led St. Raymond's on a 9-3 run to open the third quarter, but Loughlin scored the next five points to go up 50-38.
Bryant canned a long jumper with 2:33 remaining in the third to cut the Lion lead to 50-43, but James Johnson responded by coolly dropping a long three from the left wing. Loughlin led 58-47 after three.
Loughlin went up 64-49 on a steal and lay-up by Johnson, but Bryant scored eight points in a 12-4 St. Ray's run to once again cut the Lions' led to seven. St. Ray's trailed by the same margin, 70-63 with 2:35 left, but Loughlin's ferocious half-court defense kept the Ravens off the scoreboard from then on.
"We've got good guards," Loughlin head coach Khalid Green said with a smile on his face. "When you have guys like that, they know what to do. They executed tonight and that's what helped us."
Ravens head coach Oliver Antigua, upset over a no call on what looked like an obvious foul, was whistled for a technical foul during the Lions big run.
The Ravens seemed frustrated by some questionable referee calls, looking at times like their head wasn't always in the game."It had a lot to do with it," Rays senior guard and West Virginia commit Daryl "Truck" Bryant would say after the game. He noted, though, that it falls on the teams shoulders when the game is over. "I won't blame anything on the refs. In the end it comes down to how the players play."
St. Ray's questionable shift to a half-court game may have been brought on by the Lions' unwillingness to be flustered early by the Ravens' frantic pace. "That's our game too," said Green, referring to the press and run style that the Ravens usually employ. "We scouted them, and we're just happy to get the better of them for the night."
Green reflected on the Lions' mercurial regular season after the game, saying that his team is growing with every game. "Every win is special for us," said Green. "We're learning how to handle adversity better, play (with) poise and play when the pressure's on."
"It feels good," Phillip said. "We proved everybody wrong. It was very important to win this game and get the first seed. Coach told us a few games ago to play every game like it was a playoff game."
Senior Kevin Phillip scored 17 points and racked up 11 rebounds and 6 blocks for Loughlin, with fellow senior Johnson adding 14 points, 10 assists and 7 steals. Sophomore Doron Lamb put up 17 points for the Lions, Hamlet tallied 12 and 7 boards, and sophomore Jayvaughn Pinkston scored nine to go with 14 rebounds. Lawrence led the way for St. Ray's with 21, while Bryant contributed 19.
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