BROOKLYN, NY - Exactly four weeks ago to the hour, the Thomas Jefferson Orange Wave basketball team was in the identical position they were in last night:
On the brink of an overtime showdown against their league rival Boys & Girls Kangaroos. But on January 3rd, there was one huge difference - Thaddeus Hall wasn't on the court.
"Not having Thaddeus last time hurt us," said Jefferson Head Coach, Lawrence "Bud" Pollard. "But tonight he was here and he turned it up a notch."
While a Leroy "Truck" Fludd buzzer beater sent Jefferson home with an 'L' in the last showdown, Hall made up for his absence a month ago and exacted revenge with a ten point onslaught in OT; his performance sealed a 95-91 win for Jefferson at home.
"This time the rabbit had the gun [late in the game] - and he pulled it on Elmer Fudd," he said of the Orange Wave's biggest win of the season.
Not only did the two teams switch roles as far as game results, but game roles as well. While the first match-up saw the Kangaroos on Jefferson's tail before sneaking in for a win, Boys & Girls held the remote control for much of this one. Despite the services of starting point guard, Tyliek Kimbrough, and two guard, Rashard Andrews - both are currently listed as ineligible - being unavailable to them, the Kangaroos' depth compensated and helped them dominate the second quarter. Initially a close game, junior guard Wesley Myers combusted for a whopping 14 of his team high 23 points in the second quarter. He got help from Joel Angus (who nailed a pair of triples in the quarter) as well.
Strong efforts from Nick Jackson (11 points) off the bench added more bounce to the 'Roos hop and the exclamation point on Boys & Girls' dominance came just shy of the two minute mark. Fludd's facsimile of LA Clipper Blake Griffin's reknowed ferocious dunk the night before sent the gym into a frenzy, earned a Jefferson defender the nickname "Perkins" from a spectator, and gave the 'Roos a 46-32 lead. But as any connoisseur of Brooklyn "AA" hoops knows, games are primarily won in the fourth quarter and if applicable, the extra session.
Jefferson's sweat box of a gym somehow got even hotter (as if it was possible), but Boys & Girls got a little cooler in the second half. Bryce Jones (who scored 9 first quarter points) and Myers put some points on the board, but Boys & Girls' buzz had hushed considerably. Despite his maniacal dunk and respectable point total, Fludd (17 points) appeared a bit subdued throughout the game and nobody took the baton of domination. Jefferson didn't fare much better by missing a handful of chip shots, but a dose of three point shooting from Jaquan Lynch (23 points) and Nazai Stokes helped the Orange Wave inch back into the mix. But most important, Hall began to feel it.
"We laid down in the first half, we had to regroup," he admitted.
Jones kept it up for the 'Roos (en route to 20 points), but they didn't find much production elsewhere. Meanwhile, Hall continued to work from all over the floor, while Kareem Johnakin (6 points) began to put in work in the paint. The Orange Wave finally took the lead after three quarters of trailing - they utilized the bonus to inch forward from the stripe and with 2:30 on the clock, a deep three from Hall put them up, 76-75. Moments later, a wild shot from Lynch tied the game at 79, where it would remain for the final play of regulation. Hall's desperation three was off the mark, but one had to wonder why he didn't drive and use the double bonus to win it from the stripe.
"I knew I could hit the three, I just caught a cramp in my leg when I shot it," he said.
He didn't gamble twice in the extra session - at least not right away. Hall attacked the rack for the first bucket of overtime, before stealing the inbounds pass and scoring again. Once Jefferson had some room, he attempted the same three he riskily shot at the end of regulation - this time he sunk it. Boys & Girls sunk simultaneously, as Angus (11 points) fouled out in the extra session to worsen their plight. Confident? Yes, but when has Brooklyn basketball ever been modest? Hall (who scored a game high 29 points) also wanted to prove a point to all in attendance.
"I feel that [Fludd] can't guard me. I'm underrated and deserve to be #1."
Hall, although proud of a win of this magnitude and Jefferson's magical season in the PSAL's toughest league, is less cocky about his team's chances.
"This was a big win, but in the playoffs, anyone can be beat. We can't sleep on anyone, so we look at every game the same way."