BAYSIDE, NY - The PSAL Steve Simms Mid-Winter Classic was held on Sunday at Cardozo High School. There were four games that showcased some of the best the PSAL has to offer.
The nightcap pitted the host school Judges against one of Brooklyn's best this season, Brooklyn Collegiate. It was a back and forth fight until a last second shot sealed the deal for the Queens power to pull out the dramatic 70-69 victory.
The game was tied at 67 in the closing seconds after Elijah McNeely knocked down a pair of clutch FT's for the Judges with 14 seconds to go. Brooklyn Collegiate patiently moved the ball down court, and Cheyenne Nettleton found a wide open Willie Barnes on the inside, and he scored the easy bucket with 5 seconds to go to give the Lions the 69-67 lead. Many of the Lions players started cheering, but the game was far from over.
Cardozo Head Coach Ron Naclerio admitted after the game he almost called a timeout after Barnes scored to take the lead for Brooklyn Collegiate, but something stopped him.
"I considered it, and almost did, but I saw Kristian Mondesir get the ball, and I know Kristian will put his head down and go. When I saw that I just said to myself let him go because we had a potential fastbreak," Naclerio said about not calling the timeout.
Mondesir got the ball, dribbled to midcourt and kicked it to McNeely who was left alone in the right corner. The junior then had the chance to be a hero.
"I looked at the clock when I got the ball and there was 1 second left so I put as much arc as I could, and just shot it," McNeely said.
As soon as it left his hand, the buzzer sounded, the ball hit the rim, and seemed to go around the cylinder at least 3 full times before finally falling in. The crowd and Cardozo bench rushed the court to jump in their hero McNeely, as the Judges took home the improbable victory,
Naclerio said he expected the shot to roll out, but was happy that the ball went in after all, and was even happier that it was McNeely who got the game winner.
"I've known Eli since the 6th grade, and I've been on him for years. He's a junior but he's our leader. The only guy with real varsity experience even though it isn't much, so to have him hit it is great," the coach added.
The miracle almost wasn't answered for Cardozo though as things were looking real dicey late. They had a 6 points lead heading into the 4th, but blew it behind stifling defense, and the fact that Brooklyn Collegiate was stepping up their pressure defense, and the fact they were focusing in on Judges star sophomore guard Rashond Salnave, taking him out of his offensive rhythm for much of the closing minutes.
The Lions had completely flipped the game, and went up by 6 with 3 minutes to play. With 1:25 to go, Brooklyn Collegiate was still up 4, and they had the ball, but an ill advised three attempt that was missed by Barnes really hurt, as Lions coach Jake Edwards pointed out after the disappointing loss.
"We are up 4 and we are hitting out free throws, and then early in the shot clock we take a three that we don't need. We could've waited and gotten fouled. Had we done that who knows what happens," Edwards said.
It wasn't all just that shot that cost Brooklyn Collegiate according to Edwards though. He blamed bad transition defense as well as a reason for the loss, and the final play certainly stuck out in his head.
"I think when we went up by 2 in the closing seconds that the guys thought it was over. I was yelling for them to get back on defense and locate, but we didn't do that and it ended up bad for us," Edwards added about the end of the game.
Bad defense led to the shot, and when the shot went up, Edwards said he was hoping it was off, but he had a bad feeling.
"I knew it was good. It looked good. When it was rolling around and then went in I was like man that's a home court shot if I've ever seen one," Edwards said about the shot.
For Cardozo, the win is bigger than just a win, it's the way they won it, and who they beat. It's not every day you win in buzzer beating fashion, and it's not every day that they get to test themselves against a Brooklyn "AA" team either, and while Naclerio has beaten Brooklyn teams in his past, he understands that this one may leave a big mark.
"Brooklyn may diss us, and Brooklyn may kiss us, but over the years Cardozo has beaten them, and hopefully now winning today will once against get their attention," Naclerio said with a smile.
McNeely had 19 points, including the game winner for Cardozo, while Salnave had a game high 23 for the Judges.
In defeat, Nettleton led the way for Brooklyn Collegiate with 17, while Craig McKenzie had 13, and Barnes added 11.
While the win is great, and something Naclerio says he will always remember, he added that he hopes that his kids build on the win, and don't get caught up in it too much, but more important that anything is something the coach says he can take from the game.
"I learned a lot about these kids and what they are made of and that is really what I will take out of this game most," Naclerio said.
For McNeely though, the game winner, and the hero is school on Monday, he just wanted to relax, and feel better.
"I got a headache now, everyone ran at me and kept slapping my head when the shot went in, but I will take the pain for getting the win."
Wadleigh Tops McKee/Staten Island Tech, 60-52
Lenny Kadisha and Angel Malave combined to score 44 points as the Tigers pulled away late from the Seagulls to grab the 8 point win.
Nick Maetta kept McKee in the game til the end, but Wadleigh dominated the boards in the 4th quarter, and were just too strong in the paint, and they were able to hold on for the win.
Kadisha had a game high 26 points for Wadleigh in the victory, with Malave added 18 and 10 rebounds.
Maetta had 15 points, all coming on his 5 three pointers, while Terrell Dupree also had 15 in defeat for MSIT.
Thurgood Marshall Academy Neutralizes Boys & Girls, 63-58
The Kangaroos were in front for most of the game until Dimencio Vaughn and Jhedayah "Juice" Gibbs took over late. Sloppy ball control also cost Boys and Girls as they fell to the Manhattan "AA" leaders by 5.
Gianni Ford had a strong first half for Boys and Girls, as they took a 3 point lead into the half, but Vaughn had 11 points in the 3rd quarter, and the Kangaroos started missing easy buckets in the paint that would cost them, as TMA roared back and grabbed the win.
Vaughn had a game high 23 points, with Gibbs adding 14 for the Panthers in the win.
Ford paced three Kangaroos in double digits with 18 on the loss, with Jamie Killings adding 11, and Darryl Williams chipping in 10.
H.S. of Construction Plucks Eagle Academy, 90-60
The Red Hawks went up 16 at the half and turned it up even more the rest of the way, easing past Eagle for the comfortable victory.
Marlon Alcindor had a game high 29 points for Construction, with Justin Wright-Foreman and Justyn Gardner adding 21 and 19 respectively in the win.
Eagle Academy was led by Juwan Chapman who had a team had 20 in the loss.