BRONX, NY - The NYCHoops.net #7 ranked St. Raymond Ravens have taken some hard knocks through the years, starting out as a young inexperienced team and eventually blossoming into one of the most senior laden teams in the CHSAA.
For the Ravens to lose one game to #3 Cardinal Hayes at home earlier in the season could be considered a fluke but to get dismantled by that same team, 82-58 in Friday's rematch could be a cause for concern.
It was senior night and Hayes looked to make a statement in their last home game. Fadil Yacoubou, a senior, got a chance to start as is customary on this occasion and took advantage of the opportunity.
Yacoubou, the younger brother of Achraf Yacoubou, has been the unfortunate recipient of reduced minutes partly due to Hayes' influx of talent by way of transfers.
Yacoubou, who scored 8 of his 12 points in the first half, said he remained positive and it showed. Taking an early lead, Yacoubou's buckets got his team going and gave Hayes an early lead.
"I was energized. I was hyped," said Yacoubou. "I knew if I came out fired up, the team would feed off of it."
There were points in the first half where baskets by Shane Rector (14 points) and Nkereuwem Okoro (10 points) pulled St. Ray's to within a bucket but Hayes would hold serve an led for the entire game.
Okoro and teammate Daniel Dingle (14 points), usually masters of the second chance points were snuffed by the frontcourt of Amadou Sidibe (12 points) and Jalen Jenkins (14 points) who dominated the paint for the Cardinals. As a consequence, the Ravens became a one and done team on offense.
Playing against the Cardinals zone stymied St. Rays. In addition, Jenkins ability as a big man to both rebound and bring the ball up court opened up frequent transition points for Hayes.
Cardinal Hayes opened up a 34-22 advantage at the half off a Jenkins buzzer beater while their defense kept the normally prolific Dingle to 3 points to start the third quarter.
The Ravens frontcourt was held in check, and Cardinal Hayes then scorching them from the perimeter as Naasir Williams (14 points) reigned down threes.
"At first I was struggling but once I got in the grove in the second half my shots started to fall," said Williams.
The Cardinals maintained a 12 point lead to start the fourth quarter but with 3:53 left to play their lead ballooned to 25 points as PG Tyler Wilson (9 points) facilitated double-digit assists.
With 2:17 left to play, Cardinals head coach Joe Lods subbed out as Hayes walked away with a 26 point win.
Although they swept the Ravens, winning both regular season match-ups, Williams said that Hayes remains cautiously excited. "We're gonna see them once or twice in the playoffs so we have to live in the moment."