BROOKLYN, NY - W.H.E.E.L.S. is thought to be one of, if not the best, team in the PSAL "A" Division coming into this new H.S. basketball season. Going up against the "AA"'s H.S. for Construction, one of the best teams in Queens, in the Brown vs. The Board of Ed Classic, it was going to be a real test to see if they could compete against the very best.
The Wolves ended up passing that test with flying colors, getting off to a quick start and taking down the Red Hawks, 85-71.
Leading into the game, W.H.E.E.L.S. head coach Josh Krinsky gave his team simple, yet truthful advice. He knew his team was talented, but he wanted them understanding that Construction is a team that would truly test his group.
"I told them that if we play well, we will win, and if we don't play our best, against a team like Construction, with a great coach in Cory Semper, and a lot of players who are getting good buzz, that we would lose."
It ended up being those words that the team took to heart, as right out of the gate, W.H.E.E.L.S. came out strong. Eddy Polanco, the Wolves 6'3" senior guard scored the first 8 points of the game by himself, which in Polanco's mind, calmed the team down from any doubts they may have had.
"As an "A" team playing a "AA" team, sometimes the "A" team can be scared, but when I hit those shots I think it helped not just me, but the whole team says they are a regular team, and we really can beat them," Polanco said.
Polanco got the team off to the quick start, but after that, it became a team effort, as W.H.E.E.L.S. battered the Construction zone in the early stages of the first. Emile Lewis, a 6'4" junior, connected on a pull up jumper in transition, and Eulogio Medina, a 5'11" senior who runs the show for the Wolves, buried a pair of threes of his own. It was 20-7 W.H.E.E.L.S. before it seemed things finally clicked in for Construction, with Justin Foreman-Wright, a 6'1" junior, connecting from long range on back to back possessions, as his play seemed to calm down the Red Hawks, closing the quarter in a 9-2 run to make it 22-16 Wolves after 1.
Construction scored the first 4 of the 2nd, with a 4 points play from Wright-Foreman getting the Red Hawks back within 2, but a nice pass from Polanco to Drexel bound 6'8" senior forward Tyshawn Myles broke up the run with the bucket in the paint.
Medina was fearless attacking the basket, and did a nice job keeping the pace at the up-tempo speed that W.H.E.E.L.S. wanted. He made a pair of nice entry passes to find Myles inside, and Lewis cutting in to up the lead back to 8, but each time W.H.E.E.L.S. opened it up, Construction closed the gap. Construction got it to a 33-31 deficit with 2:44 to go in the half, but Polanco banged down another three to up in back to five. Both teams traded a pair of baskets after that, and it was 39-34 for W.H.E.E.L.S. at the half.
The Wolves started the 2nd half strong, much like they did to open the game, getting the lead up to 9 off a beautiful cutting baseline drive by Lewis, and a left wing three from Polanco, but it was Wright-Foreman who was willing Construction to stay in the game.
The Christ the King transfer was doing all he could to keep his new team in it, again he knocked down back to back threes to close it to 55-52 late in the 3rd. Medina came back and upped the lead for W.H.E.E.L.S. at the charity stripe, but Mykel Kinard scored on a putback near the end of the quartet to make it just a 58-54 lead for W.H.E.E.L.S. after 3.
Krinsky knew it was still a game, and implored his team before the 4th to step up its defense, because he knew that was the missing link to getting his squad the win.
"It was always staying a 3 to 6 point lead for us, we were never getting over the top because we weren't getting enough stops. I knew we would score but I told the guys to start the 4th that if we got stops I knew we would get out and score, so to get stops and we could get the win."
That was Krinsky's advice for his team, and they took his advice to heart. They pressed the ball, and were creating turnovers, and while Myles was hampered in foul trouble, Judah Woney, stepped up on the inside. The 6'5" junior was able to finish in close on a pair of possessions, and after a steal, Lewis threw down a monster one handed dunk, which closed a 10-0 run as W.H.E.E.L.S. opened a 76-61 lead with 3:02 to go.
Foreman scored for Construction on a floater going down the left side, and Marlon Alcindor, who had a good game, but never really got in an offensive flow, knocked home a three, but at 76-67 W.H.E.E.L.S., Construction had a chance to cut it to 6 or 7 with 1:42 to go, but the Red Hawks missed a chippy in the inside, and Medina took the ball in transition and went directly to the basket, finishing while getting fouled, and it was once again a 12 point Wolves lead, and it seemed to be the nail in the coffin, something that Medina seemed to agree with as well.
"We didn't want them getting momentum, that play seemed to change the game for us and put us over the top. I think it was that point where we felt we had the game," Medina said.
Polanco got an easy transition basket, after another Medina steal, and while Wright-Foreman threw down a huge dunk right at the buzzer, it was W.H.E.E.L.S. that made the big statement to taking the 85-71 victory.
Polanco led a balanced W.H.E.E.L.S. effort with 24 points, while Medina added 20, along with a handful of assists, and Lewis pouring in 18.
For H.S. for Construction it was a big time opening game performance for Wright-Foreman, with the junior tallying 34 points in the defeat, while Alcindor had 15 of his own.
While Myles gets a lot of the attention for W.H.E.E.L.S., the Wolves once again proved they are much more than the big man, and Krinsky said that is exactly how he likes it.
"Tyshawn takes the attention of the other team, and he anchors our defense, but our guards are really great. Eddy can shoot the lights out, Emile can do so much attacking, and Eulogio runs the show so well. I just don't know if there is a team with 3 guys who can defend guard them when they play like they did today," Krinsky said.
It was also something if a statement for the Wolves, who remain in the "A" even though they clearly have "AA" talent, and according to Medina, this hopefully put everyone on notice as to just how good W.H.E.E.L.S. is.
"We wanted to show NYC and the PSAL that we are ready for anyone. We are going to try for everything this year. A city title, and a state title, and this was the start if accomplishing that," Medina said.
Krinsky closed though by admitting that by being in the "A" this year, that this game held a little more importance for him and his team.
"We circle the games against "AA" teams for sure. We wanted to make a statement today, and to come out and win by 14 against a really good one "AA" team, I hope we made the statement we wanted."
Thurgood Marshall Academy 81- St. John the Baptist 73
This game ended up being a duel between two players who tried to put their team's on their backs. Dimencio Vaughn, a 6'5" junior for TMA, and Tavon Ginyard, a 5'9" junior guard for SJB, put on a show, scoring a combined 90 points, but Vaughn's team was able to hold on late, and take the 8 point victory.
Vaughn seems to score at will attacking the basket. One of the stronger wing players you will find, he was able to run out in transition and do damage taking the ball at the rim and scoring in a variety of ways. From reverses down the baseline, to thunderous dunks going to the lane, to stepping out and showing excellent range, Vaughn seemed to be able to score at will, but according to him, it was just his will that drove his to scoring 43 points in this one.
"I never was willing to give up. Even when I made a mistake, I never stopped. My battery just keeps going and going, and I wasn't going to let us lose," Vaughn said after the win.
They almost did lose though, because Ginyard, though 8 inches smaller, he was just as deadly in this one. Baptist was without his running mate in the backcourt, Bryan Sinclair, so he just meant more for Ginyard, and from threes that seemed to be going in like they were short jump shots, too hard, tough drives, going in against much bigger defenders, finishing near each time he went in. Ginyard scored 30 of his game high 47 points in the 2nd half, and closing a deficit that was once up to 16, to as little as 4 late in the 2nd half. They did all this with star big man Kyle Williams being stuck on the bench for large stretches of time due to foul trouble.
The Cougars had a chance to cut it to 2 on a couple occasions late, but Brendan Erhart missed on a long three, and then Jhedeyah "Juice" Gibbs scored going in to put the game away with under a minute to go, as the Panthers, on their home court, opened the season strong, with the 81-73 win.
With Vaughn's 43 for TMA, and Ginyard's 47 for Baptist, it was surely a great battle. Vaughn, though with 4 points less, was able to come out on the winning end, and he hopes this is just the start of a special season for Thurgood Marshall.
"I just try my best because I want a championship on my back and will do whatever it takes to have that happen this season."
Berkeley Carroll 59- Our Saviour Lutheran 56
Berkeley Carroll was down from the start, and the physicality of OSL looked to be too much for the Lions, but after struggling most of the game, 6'0" senior guard Shane Pearley came up big scoring 10 fourth quarter points, while Kashaun Hicks, a talented 6'5" junior wing, hit clutch shots down the stretch, as they fought back from an 11 points deficit after three to grab the win.
Hicks had a game high 25 points, including 5 threes, with Pearley adding 12. Angel Maestre, a 5'9" senior guard, and Ricky Hicks, a 6'0" sophomore guard, each paced the Falcons with 17 points apiece for a much improved Our Saviour Lutheran squad,
All Hallows 51- Van Buren 48
Abou Kante (AH)- 12 points
Christopher Rivera (AH)- 10 points
Gaeton Du Bosquet (VB)- 16 points
LaSalle 63- Lab Museum United 60
Brian Bass (L)- 27 points
Raheem James (L)- 17 points
Donoven Adams (LMU)- 17 points