BROOKLYN, NY - It's been said that it's difficult to beat a good team three times, especially a team that knows how you function.
The South Shore Vikings and Jefferson Orange Wave know all about each other, and Jefferson's 2-0 record against the Vikings took two hard fought games, one in overtime. Could South Shore finally put away their rival in the Brooklyn Borough playoffs?
It certainly looked like three would be the charm. They were up double digits in the first half. They came close. South Shore senior forward, Wayne Martin, looked unstoppable for three quarters. But all of the above mean zilch in Brooklyn AA, and #1 seeded Jefferson snuck the #4 seeded Vikings from behind for a 52-50 win.
"This game was a prize fight and [South Shore] came in ready to play; we came in with our hands down," said Jefferson Head Coach, Lawrence "Bud" Pollard. And the Wave was reduced to a ripple and hit with uppercuts repeatedly in the first half. The defense was there for both squads, but offense went one way: South Shore's way.
The 6'6" Martin was Jefferson's main antagonist in the last two games, and this one was no different. He was unstoppable under the hoop, scoring nine first quarter points. To conflate Jefferson's woes, they failed to take care of the ball and the turnovers turned into a highlight reel of transition dunks for the Vikings. As the O-Wave offense remained flat and the turnovers mounted, they were on the butt end of a 26-9 score by first quarter's end. South Shore's 17 point lead in the second quarter was their largest of the game, but the golden rule in Brooklyn AA is never count anyone out, especially Jefferson. Junior guard Jaquan (Son Son) Lynch wasn't scorching, but he reinforced the inside efforts of Jermoine "Flirt" Faison to produce some points - the O-Wave were back within nine by halftime. At that point, there was no need to panic, according to Coach Pollard.
"We haven't lost since [senior guard] Thaddeus [Hall] has been back," he said. "One minute it's him, one minute it's Jaquan. They're Batman and Robin. I knew Thaddeus would do what seniors do [when we needed him to.]"
Hall joined Lynch in pulling Jefferson back on the Vikings' heels; Nazai Stokes took it a step further with a three ball. Jefferson were now down 34-31 at the mid point of the third quarter. Martin continued to be a bully en route to a game high 21 points, but the rest of the Vikings had gone silent on offense. Shamiek Sheppard (7 points) didn't score in the second half after a strong start and point guard Terrence Samuel (2 points; 0-4 from the free throw line) struggled throughout the game. Even worse, the Vikings were frostbitten from the free throw line with a 5-16 performance. The door was open for the O-Wave to crash and once they limited Martin with some extra pressure, that's exactly what they did. Rachard Moody converted on the break after a steal from Hall, then hit a floater moments later to give Jefferson a 47-46 lead, their first lead of the game, at the 4:03 mark. But Hall wasn't done on defense yet. He picked Samuel's pocket at 1:45 and threw down a jam at the other end to make it a 51-48 game. Key charges were taken by the rest of the O-Wave, giving them momentum with both the crowd and scoreboard.
"My main goal is to play defense," said Hall, who led Jefferson with 14 points. "I want to show everyone that I deserve the title of 'Mr. Fourth Quarter'. Nobody wants it more than me. But if it weren't for [Lynch] we wouldn't have been in that position."
"I know I need to work on my point guard skills as an undersized scorer," said Lynch, who scored 13. "So I'm gonna drive and get the ball to Thaddeus and my teammates."
Lousy free throw shooting proved contagious - Jefferson shot a rickety 3-9 in the fourth quarter. That performance at the stripe left the door open for South Shore to rewrite the ending. Akinmola Ayodele's long deuce made it a 51-50 game with 43 ticks left, but the ball always found its way to a player in orange and white as the clock melted down. Sheppard's desperation heave for the win was off, and Jefferson will advance to face Boys & Girls in the borough championship.
"We're gonna turn it up for that game, definitely," Lynch said of their third showdown with their Bed-Stuy rival. "But we're gonna go super hard in the regular playoffs. Play defense and not leave practice until they kick us out the gym."