In a much-anticipated battle between two teams containing two of the state's best seniors, the Panthers proved to be the finest of the New York squads on Sunday, as they ousted NY Elite (A) 84-76 in the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic playoff quarterfinal.
Lance Stephenson led the Panthers with an impressive game-high 38 points, while Elite's Brandon Triche was held to a quiet 15 points. Instead, Jamesville-DeWitt freshman big-man Dajuan Coleman paced the Elite team in the loss with a team-high 23 points in three quarters.
In the first quarter, the Elite and Panthers traded basket-for-basket, tying the game at least four times in the period. Stephenson's offensive abilities, however, aided in a nine-point advantage, 21-12, in the final moments of the opening quarter.
Elite's Peyton Siva (14 points) and Rayner Maquete made buckets happen with their quickness, pull-ups and dribble penetration. And, soon, Elite was back in the game, surging 9-0 to tie the contest 21-all. But, under five minutes left to the second period, Coleman and company went to work. The squad was able to gain a lead of five, 32-27.
Moments later, NY Elite was really feeling it, as Siva used his ups to rise high enough to block a shot attempt by the 6-foot-6 Stephenson. Elite took it back down the hardwood for another basket. Stephenson wasn't going to back down, as he powered the Panthers, within a minute before halftime, bringing the game within two, 36-34.
The score was 38-34, in favor of the Elite, at the break.
Into the third phase, Triche scored on a runner, but Stephenson answered back. Elite quickly earned a lead of as much as nine points, 47-38. However, the Panthers broke out on a 10-0 run and, at the 3:55 mark of the third quarter, worked out a 48-47 advantage. But, that didn't last long. Elite's powerhouse Coleman and Panthers' Dante Taylor (16 points) traded baskets, as the battling back-and-forth resurfaced.
On a great clean-up by NY Elite's Myck Kabongo, Elite pushed forward on a 55-50 advantage and went into the fourth and final phase of the game still up by five, 59-54. At the onset of the quarter, Elite's Siva sped off to a fast-break lay-in to extend the team's lead to seven, 61-54.
Elite held a lead of seven frequently during the fourth period stretch. The last time was when the score was 72-65, off a finesse to the rack by Siva. Following the Elite bucket, Panthers' Maalik Wayns (12 points) was fouled and made one of two from the charity stripe. Then, a sequence sparked by a Taylor deuce off a feed and carried through by Stephenson and Kevin Parrom, gave the Panthers a 73-72 lead over NY Elite with about 3:13 left in the fourth.
Elite's Triche, then sank two free throws to give his team their last lead of the contest at 74-73. While Stephenson and Wayns made some crucial plays down the stretch, the Panthers also began to lock up more on defense and earn the stops that would later shut down Elite for the last two minutes of the quarter and clinch the win for the Panthers.
The NY Panthers will play Jayvaughn Pinkston and the New Heights (Juniors) squad in the Classic playoff semifinal next Saturday, May 16.
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