BROOKLYN, NY - The clock read 0:00. The score read 59-59. But the faces of the Jefferson Orange Wave personnel read shock.
"The ball don't lie," said Jefferson Head Coach Lawrence "Bud" Pollard after the game. "[The officials] said [a Jefferson player] was going to pass when he got fouled, but there was almost no time left; he was in the act [of shooting]. I don't fault the refs though, this was a hard game to [officiate], a great game. And my guys didn't quit; they got it done."
A doozy it was, and in a game of constant momentum changes, excitement bursts, and close calls that would present a danger to spectators with weak hearts, unranked Jefferson held on to edge the NYCHoops.net #4 ranked South Shore Vikings, 76-73, in overtime.
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The Brooklyn "AA" intensity and grit showed it's ID card early and often. South Shore's Wayne Martin (21 points) and Jefferson's Jermoine "Flirt" Faison (a game high 23 points) provided buckets for their teams, but aggressive defense balanced the scales and put both teams in foul trouble early. The Vikings held a 15-11 lead after one, but with junior Shamiek Sheppard picking up three first half fouls, their juice was diluted a bit. The strong point guard play of 6'4" junior, Terrence Samuel (21 points), gave the Vikings a lift, but relentless hustle from Faison on both sides of the ball afforded Jefferson a spot in striking range. A burst of energy from sophomore guard, Patrick Brown, gave the Orange Wave a 25-24 lead to take into the locker room. That lead was the springboard for a Wave-dominated third quarter; Jefferson emerged from the locker room pumped and ready to make a statement.
"Watching video of [Jefferson's game against Christ the King last weekend] made us sick and hungry," stated Coach Pollard. "We've been waiting a year to play South Shore again."
The aforementioned hunger drove Jefferson to smother the Vikings with a fully-charged, trapping defense that created a flurry of turnovers and fast break opportunity. Failure to box out and get back on defense only made matters worse for South Shore, and once junior guard Jaquan Lynch got going, the Wave looked to be gaining control.
"[Academically ineligible teammate] Thaddeus [Hall] was on the bench, telling me to do what I have to do [in his absence]," said Lynch, who scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and extra session.
"Thaddeus is the best player in the city," added Coach Pollard. "But until he returns, the young guys we have are doing a great job, I'm proud of them."
Brown bolstered Lynch's attack, and with some help from Faison in the paint, Jefferson created a seven point cushion for themselves. But one mustn't forget that Jefferson was playing South Shore at South Shore. The decibels went up a notch. The play got more intense. And more importantly, Samuel found his groove.
The talented guard got to the stripe, scored on his own and dished the ball out with precision. One of those precise assists zipped through the Wave's defense and found Martin under the hoop for a jam - moments later the game was tied at 47. The frequent momentum switches didn't cease until the final horn.
Brown (12 points) converted off a steal; sophomore Doudmy Saint Hilaire (13 points) returned the favor ten seconds later. A hampered with four fouls Sheppard re-entered the game for a gutsy old school three point play to put the Vikings up a deuce; Faison silenced the crowd. Martin stuffed the ball so hard he bent the rim; Lynch answered with a stop-and-pop mid range shot to even the game at 59. Jefferson believed one of their own was fouled in the act of shooting with zilch on the clock; the refs decided not to let the call decide the game. The team who gave up first would be the team to lose.
"We couldn't cry about the refs," Coach Pollard said. "They let the players decide the game."
It was time to regroup.
"We knew that [in the overtime] we had to slow it down and I knew I had to put my team on my back," Lynch said. "We knew we had to keep playing hard and playing defense."
The Wave did just that, as Lynch and Faison worked together to build a seven point lead, which was capped by the latter finishing a fast break with a dunk to make it a 71-64 game. The Wave had it in the bag. Or did they?
Of course not. Samuel was still on the floor. With the game all but won, Jefferson fell asleep, allowing the touted guard to bury a trey for his fifth straight point and make it a 73-69 game. In under five seconds, Martin got his hands on a Jefferson inbound pass to make it a 73-71 game with 13 seconds left. There was a discrepancy with a time out call. The crowd grew louder. But this time, the Wave held steady.
Lynch and junior guard Jalen Evans combined to go 3-4 from the stripe to seal the deal under pressure.
"My guys didn't back down," Coach Pollard said proudly. "We came back to the scene of the crime and won the game."
The "crime" in question was the melee that broke out at last year's Jefferson at South Shore game. In all honesty, the elephant in the room it was, but the Wave made it clear that they came to ball, not brawl.
"There may be words exchanged in the game and things get heated," admitted Lynch. "But we keep it on the court. I'm cool with the South Shore players; we went to junior high together. But when we play, it's strictly business and we got the win."
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