HARLEM, NY - Players from the South Shore Vikings of Brooklyn's PSAL AA division believe they made a statement about the upcoming high school season on Thursday night after winning the SMARTBall Classic in convincing fashion over players from the Bayside Commodores.
"We are the team to beat," said MVP Terrence Samuel (7 points, 8 assists & 7 rebounds).
Bayside was formidable and represented the Queens PSAL AA division well, giving South Shore all they could handle but the Vikings players were simply too big and too athletic. In the end, South Shore coached by assistant coach Shawn "Smoke" Mark out-rebounded Bayside 21-15 to win the single elimination tournament, 62-51.
The guard heavy Bayside team would come out the box blazing on all cylinders as pint sized point guard Cantrell Barker (14 points 7 rebounds, 4 assists & 5 steals) torched South Shore's defense early. Never fazed, Shamiek Sheppard (14 points 2 rebounds & 1 block) and 6'5" rising senior David Tait (11 points and 3 rebounds) would eventually help South Shore dominate inside, take the lead and extend it to 34-22 by halftime.
Bayside would not lay down quietly as Tyler Whitehead (17 points, 6 rebounds) and Barker snipped into South Shore's lead and soon tied the game at 42 with 6:01 left in regulation.
South Shore put their team depth on display as new players like Tait and Didier Antoine (3 points & 3 rebounds) stepped up late and also did work in the paint. A put back by Sheppard would spark a devastating 11-0 run that would spell the beginning of the end for Bayside.
"Tait is a beast," said Coach Mark. "[South Shore head] Coach Mike [Beckles] has been working with him all summer long."
A transfer from a B division school, Tait said that he had to get use to the elevated level of play of the double A. "It was a difficult transition for me and I had to work hard to get where I'm at today," said Tait.
While the Viking's players exude confidence about their chances this season, Coach Mark tried to be a more subdued at first. "I'm going to be real humble this year," he said. "Last year they said we were supposed to win it and we didn't." However, Mark would go on to say that the addition of Tait could be the difference maker. "If Tait keeps his mind right, we could get to the [PSAL] championship. Tell him I said that."
Samuel gave a little credit to Bayside, who's proven themselves as a potential frontrunner in Queens by taking down Boys & Girls, the two time SMARTball Classic defending champs, in the semis. "They're little but they're good," he said.
After knocking off Christ the King, one of the top Catholic School teams, in double overtime in the semis the night before and then winning the chip, Samuel said that the addition of new personnel is having a profound effect on the possibilities. Even though it's still pre-season, "We have a more coachable team," said Samuel. "We work hard in the workouts and we're more disciplined than last year."
When asked which team in the Brooklyn AA is going to give South Shore the most problems this season, Samuel answered, "Lincoln."