PSAL Borough Championships Preview

Its PSAL Post-Season time! After an exciting regular season throughout the 5 boroughs; post-season action will commence this week as the PSAL Borough Championships tip off on Tuesday. 8 teams will battle in four boroughs (Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn) to crown the borough champion.
Each borough will have at least four representatives from their AA division and at least one representative from each borough's A divisions. First and second round games will be held on Tuesday, February 12 and Thursday, February 14 respectively. The team with the higher seed will host the first and second round games. Three Borough Championship Finals games will take place at St Johns University on Sunday February 17, 2008 starting at 11 am while the Brooklyn Borough Championship will take place on February 16th at Hunter College at 5pm.
This is a single elimination tournament so each team must bring their "A game." Non-double A division winners surely will look for the upset over AA Division opponents. However, many teams like to use this min- tournament as preparation for the upcoming PSAL City Tournament. The Borough Championships allow many players to get a small sampling of post-season play and it allows lower division players to see how they fare against tougher competition.

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32 teams will enter the tournament but only four teams will be crowned Borough Champion at St. Johns University. That's many schools from all over the city. If you have no idea who to pick or follow; NYCHoops.net has you covered with a preview of the teams from each borough in the tournament:
The Bronx may be one of the most interesting borough tournaments to watch as 5 of their 6 AA division teams made the tournament. Only Dewitt Clinton High School; who finished the season with one win did not make the tournament. John F. Kennedy (15-0), Wings Academy (11-4), Herbert H. Lehman (8-7), Harry S. Truman (7-8), and James Monroe (6-9) all made the borough tournament. They will also be joined by Bronx A East division winner Samuel Gompers (15-2), second place finisher South Bronx (14-3), and Bronx A West division winner Eagle Academy (17-0).
Eagle Academy was rewarded by the PSAL for their undefeated season with the third seed in the Bronx. However, their first round match up with Monroe will not be a walk in the park. Eagle Academy ran through the Bronx A West defeating opponents by and average of 35.3 points per game. Their closest margin of victory came on January 4th as they edged Bronx A East champion Samuel Gompers 77 -75 at home. They also earlier defeated South Bronx by eleven but were not tested for most of the season. In fact the second best team in their division (Walton) finished with seven losses.
Eagle Academy is led by two seniors Antoine Gattling and Tyquan Brown. If they are to advance in the Borough Championships, they will need a huge game from both of their seniors. Gattling (22.1 ppg, 13.2 rebs, 6.8 assts) is an outstanding scoring who can do it all for his team. However much more talented AA teams will focus on him defensively and allow other Eagles players to beat them. Brown, who averages a double-double per game (18.6 ppg, 17.6 rebs) will have to step up along with other players. If the Eagles can get huge scoring contribution from point guard Christopher Davis (12.2 apg) they will have a shot to make some noise in the tournament.
Last season (their first in PSAL competition) Eagle Academy went undefeated and captured the city B Division championship without a single senior on the roster. However now they are playing with the big boys. They should fare well in the A Division playoffs but they will definitely have their hands full with first round opponent James Monroe.
James Monroe, also known as the Eagles is a battled tested team from the Bronx AA. They have played in 7 league games decided by ten points or less and are worthy of making the Bronx Borough Championships. Because of they have battled close with some talented teams in the Bronx AA they are primed to knock off third seeded Eagle Academy. The Eagles of Monroe have excellent guard play starting with senior guard/forward Marcus Razor. Razor is a solid scorer (13.3 ppg) but also can hit the glass as he grabbed over 12 boards per game this season. He is complemented by fellow classmate Stanley Brooks and junior Dennis Hawkins. Hawkins led the team in scoring with over 15 a game.
However for Monroe to be successful they are going to need strong play inside. Senior forward Alexander White Jr. is going to have to improve on the 7.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg that he posted during the season for the Eagles to have a chance at a legit run past the first round. Monroe's experience against stiffer AA competition should prove valuable in their road first round match up.
The Knights of JFK hope that their first round match up against South Bronx ends like all their PSAL league games this season…with a win. The Knights finished first in the Bronx AA winning all 15 divisional games. JFK was never really tested within their own division only Wings Academy proved that they could hang with the Knights losing both regular season match ups by three and ten points respectively. When challenged against stiffer competition the Knights won close non-league games against Truman and Wadleigh. However, they were blown out by Lincoln 81-61 in the SNY invitational semi-finals earlier this month.
The Knights are led by senior Kadeem Nicholas and excellent scorer who have carried the load for most of the season. Look for him to have a big tournament and post big numbers in the first and second rounds against lesser competition. The Knights have other solid players on their roster including Jeffrey Arzu and Andre Davidson but neither command the attention that defenses will show Nicholas. With a talented group of seniors JFK is the class of the Bronx and should stay undefeated against their borough opponents.
The Phoenix of South Bronx, second place finishers in the Bronx A East were the only team other than Samuel Gompers in the division to finish with a winning record. Their most impressive victory of the season came in their first meeting against Samuel Gompers where they won 92-85 at home. However the Panthers routed them in their next meeting. Like Eagle Academy (who South Bronx lost to in the regular season) this team has not really faced tougher AA level competition.
The Phoenix are a very balanced team that featured four players who averaged double-digit point totals per game. However the focal point of their offense is Enson Garcia who averaged over 19 points and 13 rebounds per game this season. Garcia can play all three frontcourt positions and at 6'4 will be a tough match up for any opponent. The key to South Bronx having any chance against JFK and advancing in this tournament however will depend on their secondary scorers. The Phoenix a very good scoring team averaged 90.1 ppg on the season and will need to score more than 90 to pull off a shocking first round upset.
Forget avoiding and upset in the first round; Wings Academy is just focusing on getting another shot at JFK. The Knights defeated Wings twice in the regular season but Wings was competitive in both games. Wings is a much younger team with a different look this season. In fact their roster includes only one senior (Allan Forbes). However, the structure of their offense is very similar to that of their back to back PSAL playoff semi-final runs the past two years.
Wings Academy possesses a very balanced offense which makes them dangerous in this tournament. JFK knows just how tough they are and it will be hard for the Knights to defeat them three times in a row in one season. A player to watch for Wings is junior guard Ronald Baker who has a knack for getting to the free throw line. If his team can get to the line and knock down the outside shot with proficiency they could easily be crowned kings of the Bronx. The only knock on this young Wings squad is their lack of post-season experience.
The Panthers only lost two games this season on their way to winning the Bronx A East. Losing to division rival South Bronx and Bronx A West Champion Eagle Academy they also rarely were tested against opponents in their division. Manhattan A West Champion Food & Finance also knocked off the Panthers in a non-league match up at St. Francis College during the regular season.
Looking to defeat Wings Academy on the road will not be an easy task as the Panthers will probably face the most balanced team they have faced the entire season. However, the Panthers are pretty balanced themselves as five players on their roster averaged double digits in scoring for the season. Yet unlike Wings they have a very strong senior class consisting of leading scorer Orlando Minott, Marco Diaz, Jonathan Bermudez and Angel Flores. These seniors have played post-season games in hostile environments before and should relish the opportunity to knock off Wings Academy. If the senior quartet shows senior leadership on the road Wings could fly home early.
There is no doubt the Lehman Lions will be a tough out in the Borough Championships. The Lions have pretty much been competitive in every regular season game and have battled both Wings and JFK tough en route to a third place finish in the Bronx AA division.
The Lions are a very young team with only three seniors on the roster but they have some outstanding talent that can prove to be a factor in this tournament. Senior Quran Lucas has been a consistent leader all season averaging a double-double (11.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg). However junior Armand Thomas (11.8 ppg, 17.3rpg) is a player to watch. Thomas a ferocious rebounder could be a game changer in the post-season if Lehman can control the boards. Like Wings Academy you have to love this team's young talent but at the same time question their experience.
Like their presidential first round rival Lehman; the Mustangs have hung tough with their division opponents. However they lack the impressive regular season victory on their resume to wow many over. The Mustang have not shown much of a killer instinct against any opponent and failed to even blowout the one win Governors of Dewitt Clinton in their two match ups.
Lehman won both head to head meetings between the two teams by 12 and nine points respectively. Truman has a great scorer in Brandon Stolz (22.3 ppg), but the Lehman's game plan against the Mustangs has worked. They have allowed Stolz to score and forced other Mustangs to beat them late. In both regular season match ups Stolz got his points but did not receive much help late in the game. In order for the Mustangs to be victorious Stolz must get some addition scoring help.
Final Word: Wings over JFK in the finals.
The Lions (7-7) finished their regular season third in the Manhattan AA division and are entering post-season play having won five of their last six games. FDA has played well of late after a 2-6 start but they are a team that has trouble scoring especially against tougher competition. Teams like Thurgood Marshall and JFK have held the Lions to under 50 points in losses.
Senior Kwado Boateng Jr. is their best scorer averaging over 13 points a game. However, the Lions lack a real go-to threat late in the game. They are a solid defensive team but will need to score points to be upper echelon teams in this tournament.
In a school that is primarily known for the dominant success of the girls team the Blazers (17-1) blazed their way to a Manhattan A East division title. And there is not much reason to not have confidence that this team will not blaze past the first round. Unlike their first round opponent FDA; they can put the ball in the basket.
The Blazers have a well balanced team with a great group of seniors who have the ability to dominate the game down low. Senior big men Timothy Sutton and Travis Betran have been a force down low all season and are great compliments to fellow big man Rodney Willis (16.8 ppg, 8.06 rpg). If this team can continue their dominance inside against other Manhattan foes it would not shock me to see them playing at St. Johns for the borough championship.
Wadleigh is one of the top teams in the PSAL and clearly was the class of the Manhattan AA division finishing the regular season with a 12-2 record. Second place Thurgood Marshall finished four games behind he division champs. Wadleigh is nowhere near as good as they were a season ago. However they still boast the best player in the city on their roster.
Curtis Loving (12.0 ppg, 15.36 rpg) is a talented player who can score from any position on the floor and gained a great deal of post-season experience during Wadleigh's playoff run last season. You also have to love the fact this team has been battled test and played tougher competition throughout the season including an early season match up with Thomas Jefferson. This team knows how to win close games and they have the best go-to player in the borough. It will be hard to see anyone beating this team without shutting down Loving.
The second place team in the Manhattan A East with a 14-3 regular season finish is looking to pull the big upset against Wadleigh in the first round. However, the big question is whether or not they can pull of the huge upset on the road. The Warriors played Murray Bergtraum tough during the regular season losing to the Blazers by a point on the road and later recording a six point home victory.
The Warriors who are led by Noel Santana's 18 ppg average will need a lot more than that to get past Wadleigh on the road. In addition, they lack the scoring options to seriously challenge a good defensive team like Wadleigh.
The Panthers are a very solid team and recorded an impressive eleven point home victory over Wadleigh early in the season as they finished second in the Manhattan AA division. However, their play down the stretch of the regular season has to be a concern heading into the Borough Championships.
The Panthers have lost seven of their last nine games heading into their first round match up against the High School of Environmental Studies. However, the Panthers have a very balanced offense led by senior small forward Leonard McNeil (17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg). At 6'4 McNeil is a very tough match up as he can also play the two guard position. He will need to come up big if the Panthers advance past the first round.
Environmental Studies is a team that did just enough to make it to this tournament. A 13-5 record and second place in the Manhattan A West division got the Eagles the 7th seed. However, the Eagles are offensively challenged in a weak division where four teams were at least eight games below .500. Environmental Studies scored 70 or more points in a game only three times this season and never really dominated the bottom feeders of their division. Three players on the roster are just over the double-digit point per game average and they truly lack a go-to scorer. If the Eagles can muster enough offense they can advance but they have yet to prove they can score consistently.
Three straight losses heading into the playoffs for most teams would be a concern. However for the Rams those games may have been great post-season preparation. Manhattan Center dropped their final three games to Wadleigh, Lehman, and JFK respectively. All three are PSAL playoff bound teams and formidable opponents. The Rams (6-8) lost by double digits to all three opponents but definitely received a taste of tougher competition.
Manhattan Center has many athletes and interchangeable scorers in the offense. Most of the roster can play various guard and forward positions. However they are susceptible to being beat on the boards as they lack a true inside presence. Sophomore Tyrone Turner Jr. could be a player to watch for the Rams in the first round. The young combo guard has shown the ability to score and hit the boards at 6'4. He could be a wild card if the Rams are to go beyond the first round.
The Champions of the Manhattan A West Division put together and impressive 17-1 regular season record and are looking to make some noise in the post-season. Sure their division is not the strongest and outside of Beacon and Environmental Studies they were never really challenged in their division. However unlike others in their division they were tested outside of the league and recorded a win earlier this season against Samuel Gompers.
Wins such as those can give a team like the Seahawks the confidence to play with AA competition. They will face that against the Rams in the first round and have every reason to believe they can advance. With one of the best all-around players in the city Food & Science could be a sleeper in this tournament. Travis Nichols is the star of the team and his numbers prove it. Averaging 23. 5 ppg and 11.5 rpb to go along with over four assists per game he is truly a player to watch out for. The Rams will have a tough time defending him on the perimeter and inside. If he puts up his usual numbers and role players such as Marshall Fauntleroy and Javier McKenzie contribute you just may see the Seahawks in the second round.
Final Word: Wadleigh over Thurgood Marshall in Finals.
Losing to Beach Channel at home is not the way you want to head into playoffs. Yet the Inventors are faced with the task of reinventing themselves and playing better ball in the Borough Championships. A 13-5 regular season record was good enough to place Thomas Edison 3rd in the division and ranked third in the Queens Borough Championship.
Their first round opponent will be a familiar division rival; Martin Van Buren whom the Inventors defeated twice during the regular season. Thomas Edison guard Allan Thomas averaged 18.0 points in the two victories over MVB and will have to be a key factor in his team's first round match up. Besides Thomas the Fighting Vee Bees will also have their hands full with senior swingman Isiah Stokley.
The Vee Bees (8-10) are also heading into the playoffs as losers of two in a row and four out of their last five. Two of those losses came to Benjamin Cardozo and one also came at the hands of their first round opponent Thomas Edison.
MVB is an experienced team with nine seniors. However they are a team that struggles to score points and scored 70 or more points in a game only once this season. Their offense revolves around senior Antun Maxwell (17.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) but they lack a secondary scorer and dominant presence inside. This may not bode well against a team with better offensive balance such as their first round opponents; the Inventors.
Outside of two nail biting wins against Cardozo and a loss to the Inventors; the Bulldogs dominated the Queens AA Division. They will look to become the King of Queens with three wins in this tournament. The question everyone wants to know is that after two great games against Cardozo can the Bulldogs prevail one more time if they meet?
First the Bulldogs must take care of business in their first round match up with Newtown. They should win easily and pose problems for any team in this tournament with star junior Chavis Mennon on their side. Mennon is already one the best scorers in the PSAL and has proven himself in the clutch in both games against Cardozo. At 6'5 he can play four different positions and it is doubtful anyone in Queens can stop him.
The Pioneers had a very successful regular season winning the Queens A East with a 14-2 record. However, like many of their fellow A division tournament entrants throughout the have not faced much great competition.
Within their own division Newtown struggled to produce points. The Pioneers are also a very young team with only four seniors on the roster. Junior David Joseph is the best player on the team but there are not enough experienced scorers around him to believe in the Pioneers pulling the upset.
The Judges of Cardozo will be judged on whether or not they can get over the hump and finally defeat Campus Magnet this season after two consecutive losses. Head coach Ron Naclerio has to be confident that his team can beat the Bulldogs after two close games.
Cardozo is sparked by the play of one of the best points guards in the city; Trinity Fields. The 6'1 senior averages 19.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. The ball will be in his hands late in games during the post-season and he has to be able to make the big shot and also trust his teammates in order to go far.
The Hawks of Hillcrest won the Queens A West Division with a 14-2 record but it was not impressive. They played down to their opponent in many games and played a lot of close games with competition not as good as them. In fact they may not even deserve the seven seed over eight seeded Newtown.
The Hawks roster is anything but impressive as they have only one scorer averaging over double digits; Patrick Parker. This makes their offense in post-season play very predictable. A well coached opponent such as their first round foe Cardozo will shut down Parker and force others to beat them.
The Rangers are your typical mediocre team. Finishing 12-6 and fourth in the Queens AA division they did exactly what a mediocre teams does. They beat the teams they were expected to beat and lost to the teams they were expected to lose to.
Their season resume does not show any great wins. It is notable however that they beat first round opponent William C. Bryant twice during the regular season. Point guard Andre Armstrong is a player to watch for the Rangers and Alex Hall is a double-double threat. Being a mediocre team the Rangers are expected to win a first round game at home but not much more than that.
With two losses to the Rangers in the regular season maybe the third time will be the charm for the Owls. The first loss in overtime to the Rangers in the first game of the season was a tough pill to swallow as the Owls started the season 0-2. However they rebounded to win eight games and finished in a fifth place tie in the Queens AA Division.
The Owls have proven they can play with the Rangers and if not for their slow start this season they probably would have won ten games. If sophomore forward Adis Lucevic can dominate the Forest Hills frontcourt and the Owls can hold the Rangers under 70 points they should have a good shot at advancing past the first round.
Final Word: Cardozo over Thomas Edison in the Borough Finals.
The Orange Wave of Thomas Jefferson are a very talented group of mostly juniors who are dangerous. However, they have yet to prove that are on the level of Boy's and Girls and Lincoln. They played two close games with both schools but could never put together a run to win or find a player to take over the game.
However, the fact that they have played with the aforementioned Brooklyn powerhouses in spurts should give them confidence in this tournament. This group would love to show that they can beat one of the top two seeds.
Riding a three game winning streak into the tournament the Orange Wave must focus if they want a re-match with either the two top seeds. Talented junior swingman Keith Spellman (21.8 ppg) must lead his team and take over in the later stretches of the game. If they can get a strong inside outside game going with Sophomore Joel Wright and Spellman the Orange Wave will be a tough out for anyone. An upset of one of the top two seeds could improve Jefferson's seeding in the upcoming PSAL playoffs.
The Transit Tech Express will make its first stop of the first season at Jefferson. However, it will be tough for the Express to match up against the size and toughness of their fellow East New York ballers.
Transit Teach cruised through the Brooklyn A-1 West Division undefeated but were challenged a few times most notably by Automotive. Junior Joshua Lamber will have to post numbers better than his 11.3 ppg average in order for the Express to pass 400 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Defending AA City Champs always take their game to another level in the post-season. So there is no reason to believe that this season will not be any different. After losing a thriller to Boys & Girls on the road ending their 26 game PSAL winning streak the Railsplitters responded with an 82-35 smack down of Canarsie. It seems as though their only divisional loss this season may have angered the defending champs.
With arguably the best player in the city Lance Stephenson still seemingly unstoppable and a great supporting cast of experienced role players the Railsplitters have to be viewed as the favorites to repeat as Borough Champs. However, where other Brooklyn teams can't match up with them is in the paint. Big men Justin Greene and James Padgett will be tough for any team handle. And if you choose to leave guards Vincent Council or Darwin Ellis they will make you pay. Lincoln should have no problem at least advancing to the second round. They demolished a solid Canarsie opponent so it is scary what they might do their first round opponent. That opponent would be Westinghouse High School.
The Westinghouse Warriors may have the worst draw out of any of the thirty two teams competing this week. Playing the defending AA PSAL champs will not be easy. However the division champs of Brooklyn A-1 West will play hard in a place where the home team almost never loses.
The Warriors have some very talented scorers in Curtis Pierce and Clarence Elder. However, they have absolutely no answer for either Justin Greene or James Padgett and it will be a long day inside for Oscar Thompson and Anthony Cannon.
This team could easily be considered the best team in Brooklyn and the best team in the city if they had not collapsed in the second overtime of their first meeting with Lincoln this season. However, the Brooklyn AA co-division champs are looking for payback against Lincoln in last years Borough Finals. In 2007 Lincoln came back from ten points down with over five minutes left to edge out the Kangaroos.
The Kangaroos know that they can beat Lincoln but they have yet to prove it in the post-season. Boys & Girls has an excellent group of talented guards headed by Clayton Sterling. However, their overall success in this tournament will be determined by their play inside. If David Imes and Kyrie Sutton can dominate on the glass and provide a scoring presence inside we may just see a new Borough Champion.
The Yellow Jackets may be the best A division champion in any of the four boroughs. They play in arguably the toughest A division in the entire city and edged Tilden out for the division title with a 14-4 record. Many of the teams in the division played Brooklyn powerhouses Lincoln and Grady for many years before realignment. While the Yellow Jackets have not faced any AA division level talent this year; the fact that they play in a tough division will prepare them for play against the Kangaroos.
In order to defeat the Kangaroos; Telecommunications will have the tough task of shutting down the guards of Boys & Girls. Junior guard Gregory Briggs will have to produce major numbers to keep the Yellow Jackets in the game. It should be a good tune up game for Telecommunications before the A playoffs.
Coming off a 1-13 season in 2007 the Eagles made tremendous strides finishing 7-7 in the Brooklyn AA Division. A win in the first round would most likely involve a re-match with Lincoln whom the Eagles played tough in their first meeting this season losing 67-63.
Robeson has hung tough with many opponents and has some solid wins this season. Wins over Jefferson and Forest Hills look great on the resume. But like Thomas Jefferson it has yet to be seen if they actually have what it takes to defeat the two upper echelon teams in the borough.
The Eagles have a very nice inside-out combo with their two senior leaders; Center Dashawn Carter (16.5 ppg) and guard Shennon Johannes (15.3 ppg) are a tough duo to stop. If Carter can dominate inside the Eagles could go further than the first round.
The Chiefs are not as good as last year's team that made the semi-finals after loss of Nathaniel Lester. However, they still have a solid nucleus of players.
Their 5-8 record may not look impressive but considering the fact they play in arguably the toughest PSAL division 5 wins are pretty tough to come by.
The problem with Canarsie is that they have not defeated any of the four other Brooklyn AA teams in this tournament and have lost to the Eagles twice in the regular season. The match up against the Eagles in the first round is good for the Chiefs. They can combat the inside outside game of the Eagles with seniors Yves Jules and Elon Howard. Elon is a very good defensive center and if he can control the boards and limit the scoring of Carter the Chiefs can get past the first round. A player to watch for Canarsie is junior Vincent Mattos who had a solid season and can score in bunches.
Final Word: Lincoln over Boys & Girls in finals.
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