BROOKLYN, NY - It appeared that the W.H.E.E.L.S. Wolves were getting ready to blow Bedford Academy to Kingdom Come during Saturday's PSAL Class "A" Championship on at L.I.U. (Brooklyn Campus). The Panthers had others ideas but fell short as the Washington Heights school persevered to win, 57-54.
"We had four year's trying to do this," said an emotional MVP Eulogio Medina (23 points). "When I was a freshman, we went into the B division and did what we had to do and a couple of other years, we went final four and elite eight. I told [my teammates], we have to do this. It's our last chance."
The game began at a fevered pitch. The crowd was stoked well before the tip-off. A runner by senior guard Darren Thomas (17 points) set the Panthers faithful off early. The score was quickly tied as Medina got to the line and put point on the scoreboard for W.H.E.E.L.S.
Shots were fired by both teams throughout most of the opening quarter but adrenaline caused them to fall short. Midway through the quarter the score was knotted at two before buckets and a rebound by Medina ignited a Wolves run that put them up 9-2 at the 3:52 mark.
Junior guard Emile Lewis (8 points)added to that run with a jumper and free throws. Domination on the glass by Tyshawn Myles (7 points) and senior guard Eddy Polanco (11 points) further perpetuated W.H.E.E.L.S.' lead and an 11-0 run sent them into the second quarter up, 13-2.
The Bedford Academy crowd urged their team on but a Myles basket inside followed by another by Polanco muffled them somewhat.
With the Panthers down 15, sophomore guard Anthony Munson (13 points) finally ended W.H.E.E.L.S. run from the foul line with 6:30 left in the half.
Bedford Academy hoped to chip away at the Wolves lead as Thomas banked a fade away but for the most part they traded baskets against the taller W.H.E.E.L.S. Squad.
Missed freethrows by the Wolves would eventually provide an opening late in the quarter and Bedford Academy got their deficit down to 10 with 1:54 left in the half.
Junior guard Travis Wigfall (4 points) knocks it down to eight with 14.4 seconds. Lewis drew a foul but goes 1 of 2 from the charity stripe and senior Latye Workman (12 points) hit a buzzer beater for the Panthers and suddenly W.H.E.E.L.S. was only ahead 24-20 at half.
Workman scores off a set play to open the second half but senior forward Jason Puello (4 points) countered for the Wolves. The shooting percentage improved in the second half as both teams heated up. With 4:31 W.H.E.E.L.S. was still up by four as they exchanged trifecta's. The Wolves began to inch forward and initiated the final stanza ahead, 39-32.
It appeared as if Bedford Academy was losing steam as their deficit increased back to ten but a trey from the top of the key by sophomore Anthony Gibbs (3 points) was like a Starbucks espresso, perking up the Panthers and cutting the W.H.E.E.L.S. lead to seven.
Polanco, one of W.H.E.E.L.S. primary scorers, picked up his fourth foul at the 5:51 mark and after a turnover, Wolves Head coach Josh Krinsky was hit with a tech. W.H.E.E.L.S seemed to briefly lose its axel. With 4:59 left to play the Panthers were only down, 44-39. Munson scored off the possession after the tech further cutting into the Wolves' lead.
Myles pushed W.H.E.E.L.S. lead back to seven as he battled in the paint but another three-ball by Thomas sliced that lead back down to four. Both teams went at it no holds barred. Munson drives and scores an and-1. Polanco tried to counter but missed a jumper and with 1:10 left in regulation, Thomas netted a clutch three-ball leaving W.H.E.E.L.S. barely ahead 52-51.
Medina drew a foul with 54.5 seconds and would hit both free-throws. Thomas would come up clutch yet again, nailing a trey while fading back, this time to tie the game at 54. Medina would counter with a putback to give W.H.E.E.L.S. the advantage with seconds left to play. The Wolves would go on to win with a strong defensive stand and Polanco scoring a free-throw as time ran out.
"When Thomas was going on his [three-point] barrage, we stayed poised," said Coach Krinsky with regard to his team's resiliency. "We had veteran leadership and they didn't turn the ball over and we came down and we got a good look in the post and Eulogio Medina made the plays that he's been making for the last four years; just whatever it takes to win. He was incredible tonight."