NEW YORK, NY - Three years ago, W.H.E.E.L.S. was a PSAL Developmental program, dreaming of a day like they got to experience on Sunday, having the chance to win the Manhattan Borough Championship. It wasn't always easy when they took on league rivals FDA, but a strong 4th quarter gave the Wolves their first ever championship in just the basketball program's fourth year, taking down the Lions 58-50 at CCNY in Manhattan.
When head coach Josh Krinsky came aboard to help start the basketball program at W.H.E.E.L.S. four years ago, he had hopes and dreams that a day like Sunday would come, but he was still surprised at how quickly it came.
"I couldn't have imagined it would come this soon but I knew if we do things the right way, and if we get some breaks and work hard, that it would happen," Krinsky said.
Two players from that initial Wolves team that started as a development group were big man Tyshawn Myles and guard Eulogio Medina. Both were freshman at the time, and Myles couldn't help but reflect on the difficulties in the early going for the team.
"It was so hard in the beginning knowing you don't even really have a team or a program," Myles said.
Medina echoed those same sentiments while also seemingly in awe of how far they have come as a group.
"It's an astonishing feeling to know we started from the bottom and now we are here."
It was great to get there, but as a team that hadn't lost a game to a New York City team all year, losing would be extremely difficult to take, and one of the worst things that could've happened almost did to start the game when Myles was a no show to start, not arriving to CCNY until just before the game started, and Krinsky said that there were some rocky moments on if he would make it.
"I don't want to get into it too much but we were in touch with him and knew he was on the way, but from 5pm til about 6:10pm was not my favorite hour of the year," Krinsky said.
Myles did get there, but his performance early on wasn't great, and Krinsky said that the fact that he was late took his team off their game a bit.
"It compromised us in the game even when he showed up because when you come late you never play well and he was never in synch," Krinsky explained.
The coach gave a lot of credit to FDA, a team they played and beat twice during the regular season, for having a strong game plan, and playing the game the way they wanted. While W.H.E.E.L.S. wasn't playing at its best, they still held a 26-25 lead at the half.
The Lions came out of the halftime break strong with freshman Travis Cox and senior Collin Clarke being aggressive in attacking the basket, and getting the Wolves in foul trouble. They grabbed a lead as big as 5 in the 3rd, and though W.H.E.E.L.S. came on strong, FDA held a one point lead after three, and Krinsky was worried that his Wolves team might not pull this one out.
"There were points in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th where I wasn't sure, but Eulogio came up big and we did just enough I suppose," Krinsky admitted.
Medina was key as he scored the first 8 points of the 4th for W.H.E.E.L.S. to help put them up for good, and as Krinsky said he was not happy with his point guard's performance for the first three quarters, Medina himself knew it was time to step up when his team needed him late.
"I kept hearing my coaches, they call me the leader of the pack, and I was like it if I don't pick it up here and help out then we may not finish this and win so I did what I had to do," Medina explained.
Medina and Eddy Polanco each came up with huge baskets late, and the W.H.E.E.L.S. defense stepped up as well with big stops late, and as the seconds counted down it was obvious that the win was about to come for the Wolves. Their fans came out of the stands in droves when the clock hit zero as W.H.E.E.L.S. did what many thought impossible just 3 years ago, take the title of champions of Manhattan, taking down Frederick Douglass, 58-50.
Polanco led the Wolves with 15 points and 14 rebounds, while Medina has 13 points and a handful of assists as well in the win.
It was an enormous win for W.H.E.E.L.S. coming from where they have, and the Drexel bound Myles was so overcome after the victory, he didn't even know how to put his excitement into words.
"I don't even know what to say, I just want to cry tears of joy," Myles exclaimed. "I couldn't see myself as a champion at this part of my career. This is such a blessing and I am so grateful."
Medina, the other 4 year Wolves star said that while most felt it was impossible, he believed this day was possible.
"All the years we have been here trying to build this and we finally got it," Medina said. "I believed we could do it, but to have it happen means everything."
FDA put up a big time fight and got great performances from Cox and Clarke who had 15 points and 11 points respectively in the tough defeat.
It's all about W.H.E.E.L.S. though now as they are officially Kings of Manhattan, and Krinsky, who wanted to give special attention to his assistants, Ariel Nunez and Evander Ford, for all they have to done to get the program to where they are now, says they are officially halfway to their goals for this season.
"Our goal was 4 championships," Krinsky said smiling. "Division, Borough, City, and State. We are halfway there, and we are just going to try to keep it rolling."