The NYCHoops.net # 8 ranked St. Raymond Ravens (5-3) set the tone early as they played as game of chess against #6 Thomas Jefferson Campus (6-3) on Thursday. Even before the game began, head coach Oliver Antigua let Jefferson make the first move. While the Orange Wave tried to protect their home turf, the Ravens would checkmate them in the end, 69-63.
"OK, they're playing five guards," said Coach Antigua in the huddle before he sent his team on the floor. Right after the tip-off, St. Ray's started on defense in a 2-3 zone. Jefferson countered, trying to go inside quick but back-to-back blocks and buckets by Nkereuwem Okoro (25 points) would put the Ravens up, 4-0, early.
Inside and outside baskets by 6'4" senior forward, Eric Turpin (15 points) and Davontay Grace (7 points) would tie the game as the Orange Wave looked to quicken the pace in order to negate the Ravens zone. With 4:27 left in the first quarter, 6'6" senior wing, Shamel Williams (11 points) tied the game at eight as the Orange Wave went on a 5-0 run to take the lead. With less than 2 minutes left in the quarter, Okoro and Daniel Dingle (19 points) would attack the rim, sparking an 8-2 Ravens run. Down by 3, Jefferson would draw a foul and close the gap from the foul line.
The Ravens held a 20-19 lead to start the second quarter and 5'11" junior, Larry Graves (12 points) initiated another 5-0 St. Raymond surge putting them up 25-21 with 6:50 left in the half. Jefferson coach Lawrence "Bud" Pollard had his squad press and trap in an attempt to contain the Ravens scoring. 6'9" senior center, Edson Avila (6 points), who did not start, entered the game to offer an inside presence for the Wave.
6'1" junior, Myron Hickman (6 points) and Okoro would still manage to extend St. Ray's lead to 6 points with 2:55 left until the midway point. Junior, Thaddeus Hall (19 points) would end up exposing, the Ravens flaw on the offensive boards. Second change opportunities would allow Hall to tie the game at 29 and take the lead off a put-back after a missed free-throw. 6'0" sophomore PG Shane Rector would regain the lead for the Ravens who would go on yet another 5-0 run to lead 34-29 going into the locker room.
Graves would increase the Ravens lead to 7 points but Avila began to counter inside in the paint. Jefferson would retake the lead 41-40 with 3:02 left in the third. Throughout the third both teams would play point counterpoint but Rector and Graves would finish strong giving St. Ray's a 48-44 lead as the fourth quarter commenced.
Basketball is a game of run and 3-balls by Hall and a basket by Grace would again give the home team a short-lived two-point advantage. Dingle and Graves would fight back, giving the Raven their final lead with 5:23 on the clock. The task at hand would be for the Ravens to hold on to their lead.
"No offensive rebounds for these guys, said Coach Antigua during a time out. "Don't let them dictate what we do. This is your game."
Jefferson would make a push and Avila would tie the game with 2:10 left in regulation. Okoro would keep the Ravens ahead of the eight ball down the stretch but Hall would once again pull down offensive rebounds giving the Orange Wave second chance opportunities at the charity stripe. While both teams shot poorly from the free-throw line throughout the game, Jefferson picked the end of the game to come up short from the charity stripe.
With 26.8 seconds remaining, the Ravens held on to a slim 65-63 lead. At the 18.4 second mark, Grace had a chance to tie the game inside but would short arm his shot. Solid free-throw shooting in the final 20 seconds by 6'1" senior, Frankie Garcia and Graves would be enough to pull out the five point victory.