PSAL A & B Championships
Walton shocks Brooklyn Law and Tech for PSAL Class A Championship
MANHATTAN, NY- Down by 17 at the half, everything looked bleak for the Walton H.S. as nothing was working and they weren't playing anywhere near the level that head coach Eric Swillinger wanted them to. That's when motivation and desire took over to make this a very special night for the Wildcats in the PSAL Class "A" Championship Game at Baruch College.
Pushing his team to play to the best of their abilities, Swillinger laid into his team in the locker room, wanting them to come alive and play Walton basketball in the second half. His speech was motivating and uplifting to every member of the Wildcats team, giving them just the ammo they needed to rally from a 37-20 halftime deficit and comeback in dramatic fashion to score on a putback at the buzzer to come all the way back and claim the championship with a 58-57 victory over Brooklyn Law and Tech.
Having fallen behind by as many as 19 in the opening half, Swillinger was fed up with his team's play for the first 16 minutes of the game, a game that he expected more from his group as the championship was on the line, and he went into the locker room and called them out on what he felt was uninspired play.
"I might not be the best coach in the world but I am always honest and I tell the kids what I feel 100% of the time and at halftime I said your attitude is and you can guess the word I probably used," Swillinger said. "I handed them a MetroCard and said go home, if you aren't going to give me everything you got go home. Here is a MetroCard and I saw a little bit of a click the other way where I knew I had them and they were going to come out and give me everything they had."
After being down by 17 that speech was exactly what this Walton team proved to need according to Andres Rivera '17 who admitted that he had never been so ready to come out and prove those who doubted them wrong.
The entire team had heard the doubters saying that they had no chance and it was a forgone conclusion that they would come up just short, but that wasn't something that coming out for the second half wanted to hear anymore, and Arturo Sealy '18 said something he said to his brother kept ringing in his head as the 3rd quarter was about to begin.
"I told my brother that we were going to do it today and I was going to do anything to keep my promise to him," Sealy stated.
Combine all of that together and it was a much different Walton team to start the 3rd as slowly but surely, they began chipping away at the 17-point lead for the Jets. Rivera proved to be the catalyst as he scored on a putback inside, and then followed that up with a three from the left wing.
Less than 2 minutes into the second half and the deficit was down to 12 and Swillinger just kept telling his squad to stay at it and keep believing. It still seemed doubtful to outsiders but after Louis Florimon '17 connected on a three of his own with 3:24 left in the 3rd, the once 17-point deficit was down to 7 at 42-35.
It was back to a manageable 48-43 game in Law and Tech's favor, but Walton had grabbed the momentum and weren't about to let go of it now. It was knocked all the way down to a 1 point game when Sealy finished off a drive going down the left wing, but the loud and rowdy Walton crowd was silenced as off the dribble Larry Moreno '18 was able to connect on a midrange jumper.
Still a one point game at 52-51 with 1:16 left, it seemed that the biggest shot of the game was hit by Walter Pitt '17 who drained a three from the left corner to put Law and Tech back up by 4. After 2 FT's by Mikko Johnson '17 lifted it to a 57-51 Jets lead with 28.0 seconds left in the game it was the first time Swillinger said he felt a bit of concern in the game.
"I got to admit when we got down 5 (6) I was thinking this might be it," Swillinger said.
He regained hope though as Derek Smith '17, who struggled for the entire game to find his shot, would send home a long 3 to make it 57-54. It was an NBA deep three, and it was at that point Swillinger's confidence went right back up, believing once again that the shocking win would be possible.
Off a timeout with 17.6 seconds left the Wildcats would foul Moreno who stepped up to the FT line and miss the front end of a 1 and 1. Rivera got the rebound and went all the way down the court for a layup down the left side, with Swillinger saying he wasn't about to let anyone on his team take a three pointer in that spot knowing there was still plenty of time left to make things happen.
Applying press on the ensuing inbounds caused a bad pass leading to a Brooklyn Law and Tech turnover, giving Walton a chance to get the win.
It was all set up as the crowd was on their feet. The ball was inbounded to Smith who was pressured immediately. He spun away from the double team and put up a shot with just over 3 seconds on the clock. It was long and didn't hit the rim but the ball fell right to Sealy who put it back up just before the buzzer, making the layup and sending the pro-Walton crowd into a frenzy.
Fans stormed the court as the impossible became possible with the Wildcats coming all the way back to shock Brooklyn Law and Tech for the title, 58-57.
Scoring 16 of his 23 points in the second half, Rivera carried Walton for large stretches before Sealy put home the game winner as time expired. Sealy himself had 13 points in the victory, and in the biggest moment of his basketball life he said he just put up the shot and didn't think about anything else.
"I didn't really see how much time was on the clock, I just knew I had to get it up there," Sealy stated. "It went in and I am the happiest person in the world right now."
The joy of victory is always countered by the agony of defeat as Brooklyn Law and Tech lost in the toughest way possible. Pitt had a team high 19 points to lead the Jets, while Moreno added 15 points in a game that left every Law and Tech player in tears knowing their season was done.
Walton now will go on to challenge Msgr. Farrell in the NYS Class "A" Federation Tournament Semifinals in a game to be played either Friday or Saturday, and while they will focus on doing all they can to take down the Lions on Sunday, tonight Rivera says he will celebrate that what many felt wasn't going to happen, happened, and in the most dramatic way possible.
"The basketball gods put it right in our hands. Derek put up the shot and it happened to land in Arturo's hands. The basketball gods showed us that we deserved this one," Rivera said with jubilation.
Doubted coming in, but now the Walton Wildcats can call themselves PSAL Champions.
Fannie Lou Hamer takes the PSAL Class "B" Championship over South Bronx
The top two seeds made their way to the PSAL Class "B" Championship at Baruch College on Saturday as South Bronx Prep took on Fannie Lou Hamer for the title, with the team's meeting in a rematch of a game during the season won by South Bronx, 69-63.
It wasn't revenge per say as Fannie Lou just wanted to win the championship any way they could, and against whoever was put against them, but going up against an unbeaten South Bronx Prep team that defeated them earlier just gave them extra motivation to finish the job, something they would do by taking a 61-55 victory to bring the title to the Bronx school for the first time since 2013.
There was very little doubt going into this one in the minds of the Fannie Lou players and coaches that they would win, and that was for one simple reason according to Panthers head coach Marc Skelton.
"We knew we were going to win without a doubt because of the way we play," Skelton stated. "There is a difference between hero ball and team ball and I have a serious conviction that team basketball win."
Just trusting that his team would continue to buy in and play the brand of team basketball that he wanted allowed him to be confident that after the end of Saturday he and his team would be champions.
It proved to be a strong start though for Cougars guard Tilquan Rucker '17 as the senior scored 9 points in the opening 8 minutes for the Cougars, allowing them to push out to a 13-7 lead after one as the on-ball pressure as well by South Bronx Prep was causing a lot of problems in the early going for the Fannie Lou guards.
They only issue that South Bronx Prep seemed to have was foul issues as both Ali Sumareh '18 and Jordan Agyemang '19 were saddled with 3 fouls in the second quarter, sending both the two interior presences that the Cougars had to the bench, which in turn allowed Fannie Lou Hamer to get more opportunities going to the basket.
Charles Davis '18 was able to take advantage scoring basket to back buckets in transition, and when Shamar Carpenter '17 pulled up from the elbow to knock down a midrange jumper, he gave the Panthers their first lead of the game helping push them to a 13-1 run to close the half and take a 25-21 lead at the break.
Being down by 4 may have not been exactly what Fannie Lou Hamer wanted, but the confidence that they had before the game didn't wane, with Davis saying that they just needed to keep pushing harder to make sure they got the job done.
"This is what we prepared for all year, we had to leave it all out on the court," Davis said.
Off of a strong finish to the first half, the Panthers came out and were able to tie the game up at 27 with 6:20 to go in the 3rd. The momentum for Fannie Lou was short lived though as South Bronx Prep was able to get out in the open floor and have both Carpenter and Danny Ramos '17 score in consecutive trips up the floor helping build the Cougars lead up to 45-38 after three.
Having dealt with adversity for most of this season though allowed Skelton to keep a calm frame of mind and send his team out for the 4th quarter still full of belief. It hasn't been the easiest season for him, but at the same time that was what he felt built them to where they were prepared for anything.
"Throughout the season there have been ups and downs and we were in pretty serious foul trouble, but all that has allowed us a singularity to have one goal that we wanted to accomplish," Skelton explained.
There was just 8 minutes left to make that happen and it's when Fannie Lou came together most and made sure that their goal would become a reality.
South Bronx Prep slowed the game down as they couldn't penetrate the Panthers 1-3-1 zone, and after settling for shot after shot, Fannie Lou would crash the glass and push out and get the tempo up in their favor, eventually tying the game at 49 with 1:53 left to play.
Davis would give Fannie Lou Hamer the lead on a putback of a miss while getting fouled, and then with his team up three, Cristopher Reyes '19 would find a cutting Davis going down the baseline allowing him to throw dunk a thunderous dunk that Davis himself knew were critical to ultimately putting the game away.
"I knew we needed the extra points so I had to put it in there," Davis said.
Skelton called it one of the prettiest finishes he had seen, hoping that video and pictures were taken of the dunk to have it leave a lasting memory. Regardless it would leave the lasting memory of this game as from that moment on it was all Fannie Lou Hamer as they had rallied back just as Skelton knew they would and taken their first PSAL Class "B" Championship, downing the previously undefeated South Bronx Prep, 61-55.
It was a season high 22 points and 15 rebounds for Davis who rose to the challenge in the biggest game of the year, with Frankie Williams '19 adding 16 points after missing near half the season because of a broken bone in his foot.
Rucker had 18 points to lead South Bronx Prep in the loss, while Mark Morgan '17 had 13 points as well in the heartbreaking defeat.
Back to the NYS Federation Tournament now go Fannie Lou Hamer as after a 5-year hiatus they are atop the PSAL and going back Upstate this coming weekend looking to bring home yet another title, and for Williams who missed a good chunk of this season to come back and achieve this kind of success, it's truly a dream come true.
"I'm the happiest person in the world, my emotions are everywhere," Williams said after the victory. "We worked so hard for this. That's what we do, this is Fannie Lou basketball."