JAMAICA, N.Y. - The much-anticipated PSAL 'AA' Quarterfinal took center stage at St. John's University on Saturday, as the city's elite squads brought loaded arsenals to battle for a spot in next week's semifinal round.
Despite the sweat and tears, out of the eight teams from Brooklyn Staten Island and Queens that clashed on the hardwood, only four emerged when the smoke cleared and the dust settled.
As spectators experienced the cheerful victories and the sorrowful losses, the games were highly satisfying because players left all they had - talent, skill and passion - on the floor.
Curtis Advances Past Bayside, 61-55, for Rare Final Four Appearance
Although the Curtis High School Warriors (Staten Island, N.Y.) and the Bayside High School Commodores (Queens, N.Y.) brought different defensive styles, it quickly became clear that the teams were evenly matched in terms of energy and aggressiveness. However, it would be the Warriors that would do the needed things down the stretch to create a cushion between themselves and their opponents.
Curtis took an early six-point lead, 12-6, at the 3:20 mark of the first quarter. However, Bayside tied the matchup at 14 before the close of the period. The Commodores would, ultimately, take a three-point advantage at the start of the second phase on the completion of a conventional three-point play by senior guard Cantrell Barker (11 points).
The Bayside lead was short-lived as Curtis staged an 8-0 run, capped by a bucket from Tyler Summers ('13), that pushed the Warriors ahead, 22-17. Commodores' senior guard Brandon King (game-high 21 points, 12 in first half), who was very instrumental in pulling out big plays throughout the matchup when his team needed it most, knocked down a 3-pointer to answer. The play brought Bayside within a deuce, 22-20, but a 10-1 run, paced by Jermaine Anthony Huff ('13), catapulted the Warriors ahead by 11 points, 32-21.
Bayside could only slice their deficit down to five points, 32-27, by halftime.
Even though King and Barker would help their squad back into contender's status by tying the game up at 35 around the five-minute mark of the third quarter, Huff and Summers created a six-point margin for the Warriors. The tension between Bayside's junior big man Jamal Roseburgh and Curtis' Rhode Island-commit Hassan Martin ('13) under the basket intensified. As a result of having equally competitive bodies vying for boards, the Commodores were able to come within an ace, 44-43, just before the close of the period.
However, the fourth phase was all Curtis, as the Warriors built as much as a 13-point lead on a basket by Huff with nearly 2:30 left. Bayside could only come within four points, 59-55, with 36.8 seconds remaining in the matchup.
Curtis' Huff finished with a team-high 19 points, while Summers and Martin added 16 and 11 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Bayside's Austin Williams posted nine points in the loss.
Thomas Jefferson Comeback ;Win Over Cardozo in Overtime, 64-60
It was a game where it seemed over before it began. Yes, games are tough and competitive when deep into the playoffs. However, when the Cardozo High School Judges (Queens, N.Y.) went through the entire first quarter and into the second quarter mounting a lead of as much as 17 points, 19-2, with 7:33 left before halftime, coaches, players and fans of the Thomas Jefferson Orange Wave (Brooklyn, N.Y.) could have slipped into panic mode.
During the stretch, some of Dozo's senior leadership - Larry Paschal (nine points), Darnell Holmes (10 points) and Kyle Credle (13 points) - paced the team on both ends of the floor. However, the Orange Wave never stopped believing.
Thomas Jefferson trailed by 10 points, 29-19, late in the second phase on a bucket by Dozo's Omar Williams ('13). The Judges used a very tight 2-3/3-2 zone with quickly closing gaps to prevent the Orange Wave from getting to the middle for high-percentage shots. This halfcourt defensive set was very effective in slowing Jefferson's offensive production.
Still, when there's a will, there's a way. The Orange Wave fought to cut a sliver off the Judges' advantage. And, just before halftime, Thomas Jefferson's senior guard Nazai Stokes (game-high 20 points) helped bring his team within seven points, 29-22. The score remained fixed at the break.
The Orange Wave used a good portion of the third quarter to cut their deficit to two, 29-27, within the opening minutes of the period. Still, Cardozo extended its lead to nine points, 33-24, on a basket by Williams.
Thomas Jefferson's Stokes knocked down two back-to-back 3-pointers that broke Cardozo's momentum, while cutting the deficit to five points, 35-30. The Orange Wave continued their offensive assault by coming within three, 35-32. Cardozo's Credle and company attempted to reestablish its flow by jumping ahead and holding onto a six-point advantage, 43-37, before the close of the third.
With 6:16 left in the fourth quarter, Jefferson pulled within its closest margin of the game again, 43-41, on a bucket by senior forward Jermoine Faison (13 points). Although Cardozo's senior big man Daniel Janel did a great job denying high-percentage looks at the basket, the Orange Wave still managed to earn their first lead of the game, 55-53, with 40 seconds left in the matchup.
Ultimately, it was Janel who tied the game at 55, sending the contest into overtime. Jefferson's Faison and senior guard Jaquan Lynch (12 points) took over the reigns of the Wave in the post-regulation period, while Cardozo came up short.
Wings Fight Back to Clip South Shore, 63-62
Similar to the matchup between Cardozo and Thomas Jefferson, the South Shore Vikings (Brooklyn, N.Y.) dominated Wings Academy (Bronx, N.Y.) in the second quarter, leading by as much as 17 points, 32-15, on a basket by Shamiek Sheppard ('13) with about two minutes left before halftime. During the Vikings runs, Doudmy Saint Hilaire ('14) paced his squad with 13 first-half points en route to a game-high 20 points.
Wings was able to come within eight points, 33-25, by halftime.
But Wings had a few surprises for both South Shore and spectators, as it lit up the hardwood from deep. Beginning with sophomore guard Desure Buie (10 points), Wings went on a shooting spree to cut and overcome its deficit to lead by as much as five points, 44-39, on a 3-pointer by senior guard Marvilio Berroa. Although South Shore attempted to slow Wings, the Bronx, N.Y. squad continued to stroke it from deep.
At the close of the third quarter, Wings senior guard Francisco Infante (15 points) drained a 3-pointer to lift his team by four, 51-47.
In the fourth and final phase, South Shore's David Tait ('13) was able to contribute enough points to knot his team with Wings at 52 at the 6:13 mark of the quarter. Wings' senior guard Jaequan Brown (15 points) answered with a bucket at the 5:37 mark, but Tait once again tied the game - this time at 54.
In fact, the contest would see two more ties down the stretch - the last time being at 57 - until Wings took a small lead, 59-57. But, out of a timeout, South Shore's Devyn Wilson ('14) drained a 3-pointer as part of a 5-0 mini-surge that led to the Vikings earning a three-point advantage, 62-59. Wings kept at it, bringing the game within an ace with about 1:15 remaining in the matchup, 62-61, and taking the lead, 63-62, on the next possession.
A jumpball in possession of South Shore with one second left in the game proved fruitless as, out of a timeout, the Vikings could not execute before time expired.
South Shore's Tait recorded 14 points, while teammate Sheppard finished with 13 points.
Lincoln Sends ENY Transit on Vacation, 56-40
The contest between the Lincoln High School Railsplitters (Brooklyn, N.Y.) And the ENY Transit Tech Express (Brooklyn, N.Y.) started off very slow. The Express led the Railsplitters by as much as eight points, 12-4. Lincoln would eventually tie the contest at 14 on a basket by junior guard Shaquille McFarlan (10 points).
Lincoln's junior guard Isaiah Whitehead (18 points) helped his squad surge ahead on a 6-0 run in the second quarter to lead 21-14 with about five minutes remaining in the period. Although the Express would try to make it an ugly game for the Railsplitters by forcing the fast-paced squad into a halfcourt game, Lincoln would overcome and go into halftime leading by six, 26-20.
That advantage would extend into the third phase, as the Railsplitters held a 13-point lead, 34-21, on a basket by senior guard Shaquille Davis (five points). ENY Transit Tech's Fabian MacDonald ('14) tried to keep his squad above water, but to no avail.
At the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter, Lincoln's senior forward Elijah Davis went 2-of-2 from the charity stripe to put his team up by 14 points, 50-36. The Railsplitters would maintain their control over the game, seeing contributions from many on the squad on both ends of the floor.
Lincoln's largest margin was 16 points, 56-40 - the final score.
The Express' MacDonald finished with 16 points in the loss.