Amongst high school basketball purists, NYC is #1, followed by Westchester and then Long Island so when the best team in Westchester faces off against arguably the best team on Long Island it's always an interesting observation.
On Saturday, L.I. Lutheran Crusaders of Glen Head, NY came to Mt. Vernon to face the Knights, giving those purists a chance to test their theory. Mt. Vernon is NYCHoops ranked #6 in NYC while L.I. Lutheran is ranked #2 in Long Island.
The sharp shooting Crusaders came out in the first quarter with guns blazing but when the Knights applied hardcore smash mouth basketball, LuHi folded under the pressure ultimately losing by ten.
In the first quarter, Jordan Lessane got things going for Mt. Vernon with an easy put back followed by Kevin Jones with a mid-range jumper for LuHi. Senior shooting guard Jeriel Henriquez answered quickly hitting a three ball for LuHi. Not to be out done, Jones answers with a 2-pointer on the three point line. 6'0" senior guard Matt Rooney nails yet another three for the Crusaders but Jones launches another three pointer of his own. This one-up-man-ship would continue until Henriquez dunks off of an alley-oop giving Lutheran their first lead at 12 - 11 to end the quarter.
To start the second, LuHi gets two back-to-back steals for conversions followed by a jumper by 5'9" junior point guard Kevin Johnson and suddenly the squad from Long Island was up by five.
Mt. Vernon adjusted their strategy, pressing LuHi from the inbound and played a man-to-man type defense, which caused the Crusaders to rush their shots. The Knights also started to play and inside-out game as opposed to an outside-in. Junior small forward Sherrod Wright signaled this change in strategy by emphatically dunking the ball on Henriquez head followed by emotional "words."
The tactic worked as Mt. Vernon tied the score at 20 with six minutes remaining. As Wright continued to power to the basket he caused the Crusaders big man, 6'6" junior center Shamar Wright to pick up his third foul. This opened up Wright to do even more damage on the inside resulting in the Knights taking the lead off of a hard foul on Lessane. The half ended with Mt. Vernon up 32 - 25. Sherrod Wright had scored 12 points and even though Jeriel Henriquez scored 8, he would be burdened with three fouls going into the third.
The third quarter began where the second quarter left off as Kevin Jones scored a mid-range jumper. Although Brian Wilson would counter for LuHi, it is now clear why UMass would be interested in Jordan Lessane as he calmly nailed a three pointer to give the Crusaders 38 - 27 and causing Lutheran to cause a time out to stop the bleeding.
Unfortunately, the cut turned into an open wound as Wright got into the 3-pointer game as the Knight pushed the score up to a 14 point lead. Lutheran managed one last push and closed the lead down to 6 points but the Jones-Wright duo on the inside was simply too much for the Crusaders.
To top the fourth quarter, a play that would exemplify how out matched LuHi was on the inside, would be when Wright smash mouthed his way to the hole for two plus an and-one so hard that he knocked Matt Rooney silly. So much so that he had to be replaced by Kevin Johnson who in turn committed yet another foul on Wright.
Mt. Vernon's 6'6" junior forward Vaughn Allen, who's drawn interest from Kansas State, joined in on the inside scoring tirade and with 56 seconds left the score was 77 - 62 but L.I. Lutheran was not done yet. Henriquez would score two quick hoops followed by steal and a lay-up by Rooney and without warning the score was 77 - 68 with 35 seconds left. Coach Bob Cimmino wisely called a time out for his Knights to strategize how to play the game out. LuHi attempt to play the foul game resulting on Lessane scoring 2 free throws. Henriquez would score yet another three pointer but time would run out on the Long Island Lutheran Crusaders as the Mt. Vernon Knights would go on to defeat them by a final score of 81 - 71. This would be the 4th loss for LuHi and the 14th win for the Knights. For now, the purist prevail until next time
Sherrod Wright led all scores with 33 points while Jeriel Henriquez would lead Lutheran with 23.
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