BAYSIDE, N.Y. - There is something about watching a great basketball game.
You feel like you are on a roller-coaster ride headed to the unknown. The ups and downs, sharp twists and unexpected turns of the two halves (or four quarters) thrill you and keep you locked in, being unsure as to what the next trip down the court will bring. Finally, after experiencing fluctuating momentum and being suspended in the air, the buzzer sounds. There is a winner.
There is a loser. The ride is over. The game is over. And you are left craving another one.
Though the night did not start out that way, the two last matchups on the three-game schedule Thursday night at the Beacon M.S. 158 Back-to-School Basketball Tournament, located at Marie Curie Middle School 158, were like back-to-back high-speed rides, dripping with dynamism and oozing intensity.
The last two games of the evening featured a struggle between two Long Island squads and a battle between two New York City teams. Let's take a look at the recaps of these matchups.
L.I. SHOWDOWN: SJB FIGHTS OFF ELMONT H.S., 46-45
The contest between Long Island squads St. John the Baptist High School (West Islip, N.Y.) and Elmont Memorial High School (Elmont, N.Y.) was evenly matched from tip-off, as neither squad ever saw a margin of more than +/- 6. The six-point differential happened only once during the game and did not last that long.
The fact that the pendulum only swung as far as a two-possession game is indicative of the type of pressure both teams were playing under. One wrong move could have blown the game open and created a widened deficit in a matchup where points were already hard to come by.
While Elmont H.S. saw contributions from quite a few players on the squad, St. John the Baptist had two players leading the backcourt and the frontline hustle. At the one, guard Tavon Ginyard (2015) helped facilitate his squad in spots both near and far from the basket. Ginyard contributed to putting points on the board with jumpers and penetrating drives to the rim, in addition to creating stops on the defensive end to score in transition. Teammate big man Kyle Williams (2014) helped bring his squad extra opportunities through rebounding and tip-ins, overpowering his smaller Elmont opponents inside.
A basket by Ginyard with about two minutes remaining in the first half gave St. John the Baptist its largest advantage of the game, 20-14. Still, a collective effort by Elmont quickly cut that advantage to two points, 20-18. Though Elmont would do its best to knot the matchup before the close of the stanza, a tough up-and-under by Charlie Joyner (2013), with 3.6 seconds left, lifted SJB by four points, 23-19. The score was fixed at 23-19 at halftime.
In the second half, Elmont H.S., led by the grinding of Marc Campbell (2013), tightened up as a team. And, though Ginyard would assist Williams to elevate St. John the Baptist to a five point advantage, 32-27, Elmont slowly chipped away at the deficit and was able to take a three-point advantage, 41-38, at the 5:21 mark of the stanza.
St. John the Baptist would come back to lead, but Elmont kept tying the game, raising pressure in the hardwood to prevent any kind of screw ups. Elmont ended up leading again with 18 seconds left before the end of the game, but a 1-2-2 offensive set-up allowed for Ginyard to penetrate down the middle, draw the foul and earn his at the stripe. Those free throws gave St. John the Baptist a one-point lead, 46-45, with 8.8 seconds remaining.
On the other end of the floor, Elmont ended up at the stripe, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. And, in a scramble, St. John the Baptist ended up with the ball with 2.6 seconds left on the clock. In the remaining time, Elmont was unable to get a field goal off to stage a lead change.
St. John the Baptist's Ginyard finished with a game-high 23 points, while teammates Williams and Joyner added 13 and eight points, respectively. Because Elmont shared the ball, and shared the scoring role, not one player reached a double-figure point total.
Elmont's Campbell netted nine points, while teammate Daniel Alexander (2013) chipped in six points.
NYC CLASH: WINGS SHUTS DOWN DOZO (A), 55-37
Wings Academy (Bronx, N.Y.) and Dozo (A), which primarily consists of freshmen and sophomore players from Cardozo High School (Bayside, N.Y.), started the game with much intensity. The squads, impassioned by the cross-borough contest, clashed, feeding off the energy from teammates and spectators. Ultimately, Wings Academy showed more of a veteran approach to the game, slowing the contest down and making Dozo play its game.
In the first half, both teams were quickly getting up and down the floor and bodies were flying in all directions to garner offensive opportunities. Though turnovers and fouls were abundant, both sides were motivated not to allow the other team to pull away. At the 7:47 mark of the stanza, the teams were knotted at 17.
Dozo's Travis Flagg (2013) exhibited great point guard skills, with the ability to knock down jumpers from beyond the arc. Flagg's innate, sharp passing skills made it difficult for Wings to trap him or pick off passes while guarding passing lanes.
Wings' Sufi Diakite (2013) Marv Berroa (2013) effectively held down the fort for Wings on both ends, making sure the rapid execution of Dozo did not stick their squad into a deep deficit. Still, after a few toughness plays both in facilitation and scoring by backcourt mates Flagg and Ray Salnave (2016), Dozo (A) was able to hold a three-point margin, 26-23, heading into halftime.
In the second half, though Dozo would hold an early lead for as long as the 16:16 mark of the stanza, a shift in favor of Wings began to occur. Thanks to the poise of Randy Coporan (2015) at the one, who was sure to stay aware of the momentum in which his squad was most effective, Wings was clicking on all cylinders, dominating the contest in offense, defense and momentum.
It would be back-to-back baskets from Coporan and teammate Berroa that lifted Wings to a seven-point advantage, 35-28. That lead was extended to 10 points, 38-28, on a basket by Berroa.
Dozo brought the contest as close as eight points, 38-30, but the Wings advantage grew exponentially in the final 13 minutes of the game. Wings went on to stage an 11-3 run, which resulted in the Bronx, N.Y. squad holding a 16-point lead, 49-33. Wings would hold an advantage of as much as 20 points twice down the stretch.
Wings' Berroa finished with 13 points, while teammate Diakite posted 12 points. Teammate Coporan added six points in the win. Meanwhile, Dozo (A) guards Flagg and Salnave recorded 15 and nine points, respectively.
IN OTHER NEWS...
In the first matchup of the evening, PSAL's Bayside High School (N.Y.) toppled CHSAA opponent St. Francis Prep (N.Y.) by such a dramatic margin that it was still the talk of the gym long after the game was over. Bayside lulled St. Francis asleep, earning a 45-point victory, 73-28. St. Francis Prep could not find footing in the context of the game against Bayside. St. Francis' turnovers were abundant, and the squad did not seem to pick its shots well. Bayside's Daqauise Andrews (2014) netted 14 points, while Cantrell Barker (2013) added 13 points. Teammates Corey Mittenthal (2013) and Tyler Whitehead (2013) finished with 11 and eight points, respectively.