It would become the best game of the pre-season, thus far, as one of the best teams on Long Island faced one of the best team in New York City during the Thursday's semifinal game of the Beacon Back-to-School Tournament. Complete with plots and sub-plots, the barnburner would come down to the wire as free-throws by Shaun Lawton and a game high 34 points by Achraf Yacoubou sealed a, 65-64, come from behind LuHi win over Boys & Girls.
With both teams fully loaded, it would be what many would perceive as being the best against the best. Long Island versus NYC, team versus team and even shooting guard versus shooting guard. In the never-ending battle for one-up-manship, two teams hit the floor with something to prove. More than just a semifinal game, it would become a precursor to what will be a very exciting season.
The Boys & Girls Basketball Club, consisting of players from the Boys & Girls Kangaroos, immediately put the bite on LuHi Crusaders as Jeff Neverson (21 points) and Rutgers bound Mike Taylor (13 points) scored off their patented smothering defense. The lead was 7-2 before a Jordan Allen (5 points) put-back jump started the Crusaders offense. Yacoubou would drain a trey and with 15:50 left in the half, Boys & Girls would hold on to a slim 9-8 lead. The Hofstra-bound Allen would then come up big, first tying the game at 10 after an unusually quiet Malik Nichols (4 points) went one for two from charity stripe after drawing a foul. Allen would then score the go ahead basket with 13:37 left.
Neverson would big-up for Boys & Girls after poor foul shooting put them down by three. The junior forward would singlehandedly retake the lead for the Brooklyn, NY team. LuHi was relentless as they began to match Boys & Girls intensity on the defensive end, a feat that is rarely accomplished.
The lead would change hands but 6'1" sophomore Teyvon Meyers would tie the game for Boys & Girls at 18 apiece. Boys & Girls would then go on a 7-0 tear that would leave the Crusaders scrambling and in a 23-18 hole with 4:10 left in the half. LuHi's 5'11" point guard, Mike Florin (11 points), would settle down his team in the closing minutes and buckets by Lawton (9 points) closed the gap to a point with a 1:31 to play. Taylor would draw a foul but missed the first shot of his 1 and 1 and Lawton would score at the buzzer in transition to give Lutheran a 30-29 halftime advantage.
Boys & Girls attempted to impose their will on the Brookville, NY team and briefly took the lead but a resilient LuHi team eventually regained their composure and the lead, pushing it back to 6 points as Yacoubou went off the heezy. The score was 39-33 but then like a sleeping giant, 6'6" junior Leroy "Truck" Fludd (16 points) would suddenly awake and punted his Boys & Girls team into the lead with his own personal 10-0 run. PG Antoine Slaughter (8 points) scored free-throws followed by another basket by Fludd and after Florin got popped in the face inadvertently, LuHi head coach John Buck would pick up a tech with 10:32 left to play. Neverson would go 0 for 2 on the resulting free-throws but on the possession an emphatic dunk by Fludd would leave LuHi in a 48-41 hole and spiraling with 10 minutes left in regulation.
With Florin recuperating on the sidelines, things looked bleak for LuHi but a trey by Yacoubou followed by free-throws off a turnover left the Crusaders only down by a bucket with 9 minutes left to play. The duo of Neverson and Fludd began to pick up steam again and with 5:57, Boys & Girls had reestablished a 52-46 lead.
Florin reentered the game and promptly swished a three-ball. Yacoubou matched Florin's trey with a trey of his own and just like that, the game was knotted yet again. 6'5" Terry Brutus (4 points) also added some much needed muscle underneath the basket for Long Island.
Like a heavyweight battle, both teams threw proverbial blows at each other but with 1:22 left to play, Boys & Girls was still up, 61-58, and looked to run some time off the clock. To compound things, Lutheran picked up a foul and Neverson extended Boys & Girls lead to 63-58 and with 38.4 seconds left in the game, Yacoubou would add insult to injury, missing two critical free-throws. Things seemed to go from bad to worse as Neverson draws another foul on LuHi but this time he only goes 1 for two from the line. Yacoubou pounced on the opportunity, scoring a quick jumper with 23 seconds remaining. Fludd then gets fouled but also misses his free throw and Florin, like a tiger on its prey, drains a clutch trey. Suddenly it's 64-63 with 13.6 seconds left in regulation and LuHi is within a point of the lead.
It's at this moment that LuHi puts an Anaconda like defense on Boys & Girls on the inbound, first forcing them to call a time-out at the risk of a five-second violation. On Boys & Girls second attempt at an inbound, LuHi causes a turnover as Boys & Girls rushed once again to avoid a 5 second call but this time inexplicably did not call another time-out. Lawton got fouled as he grabbed the loose ball and attempted to score. Calmly hitting the bottom of the net on both of the ensuing free-throws, Lawton gives the Long Island team a one point lead with 11.7 ticks left to play.
With the tables now turned, Boys & Girls tried desperately to get up the court to score but LuHi's 'D' forced them to call another time-out after both teams hit the floor during an all out scrum after a loose ball with 2.7 seconds left in the game. "The High", to their dismay, would not be able to get a shot off as time expired and a jubilant Long Island Lutheran team and their fans swarmed the floor.
Coach Buck said after the game, "It's a big win because Boys & Girls is such a great team. They make you earn every basket and rebound. Our guys showed tremendous heart and determination."
L.I. Lutheran is now set to play Wings in the championship after they defeated and feisty Variety Boys & Girls Club in the opener, 66-61. The chip will take place on Saturday at 3pm.