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BRONX, NY - The championship game of the Tru-Ballaz Pre-High School Classic had the look and feel of a PSAL vs. CHSAA season playoff game. Both the St. Raymond Ravens and Wings Academy brought their fans, their high pressure defenses plus up-tempo games. When the dust settled, Wings did just a enough to eek out a 47-45 win.
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So hard fought and satisfying was the win that Wings Academy players started celebrating profusely after the game. So much so that their head coach Billy Turnage had to come out the stands and remind them, "This is just the preseason."
It was frenetic pace from the opening tip-off. Lots of up-tempo play to go along with multiple missed shots and turnovers. At times, the game resembled more of a rugby match than a basketball game with more time spent on the floor, scrambling for loose balls than actually putting the ball in the hoop. With 2:15 left in the first quarter, amazingly, the score was only 5-2 in favor of St. Ray's.
Both teams were missing key pieces. Wings Academy was still playing without 6'10" Jessie Govan, who recently transferred from St. Mary's, while St. Ray's was sans Kayvon Williams who was recuperating from an ankle injury.
At the end of the first quarter, St. Raymond led by four as Sid Wilson knocked down a three-ball at the buzzer. In the second quarter, Rays held on to its lead for the majority of the time but Wings Academy enacted relentless defense, especially on Ray's guards. Baskets by Randy Corporan and Foday Sankaray cut St. Raymond's advantage to a mere point with 4:08 remaining in the half.
Two turnovers by St. Ray's recently anointed point guard Tory Ferguson and Wings seized the moment, taking the lead and pushing it to 7 points. St. Ray's responded to the adversity and gave Wings some of its own full court pressure defensive medicine. That pressure somewhat subdued Wings' normally lethal point guard, Desure Buie. In the final seconds of the half, St. Ray's regained the lead briefly but Wings took it back.
St. Raymond only trailed 27-26 as the third quarter commenced. The lead swayed back and forth as did the momentum but with 3:05 left in the third quarter, St. Ray's led 33-32 and pushed it to 7 after an 8-2 run. That momentum swing was spearheaded by shooting guard Shawn Jones who pilfered the rock on one occasion and finished with a left handed layup in transition. Luis Santos was also a dominating presence on the offensive boards against a Govan-less Wings squad.
In the final quarter, Ray's was still ahead by six points with 5:14 left in regulation but Wing's unyielding traps finally took its toll, forcing their opponent to involuntarily burn its last time out. Unable to call timeouts to strategize, Ray's became discombobulated and eventually lost their lead and with 2:45 on the clock trailed 45-43.
Ironically, when Raven's Brandon Adams fouled out with 30 seconds left in the game, it was a blessing in disguise as it gave St. Raymond's coach the opportunity to huddle with his starters for half a minute. When they reconvened, the Ravens would tie the game at 45 apiece.
Buie, who had trouble finding the bottom of the net all game, would come up clutch and wiggle free for a layup with 4.9 seconds to break the tie. With a running clock and St. Rays without timeouts, the Ravens were left with .2 seconds by the time they were ready to inbound the ball. Unable to get a shot off, it was checkmate for Wings Academy.
Sankoray led the way for Wings with 13 points with Corporan pitching in 12 points. Wilson was the high scorer for St. Ray's with 17 points.