April 25, 2008

Westchester holds off Manhattan in Wheelchair Finals

In the Wheelchair Charities Basketball Classic final, the Westchester team, as it had done in the semis, took control of the game with a strong third quarter.

Unlike in the semis though, Westchester faced a team that was perfectly capable of reversing momentum. In the end, however, Westchester proved too potent for Manhattan/Bronx on Thursday, taking home the tournament title with a 122-109 win.

Manhattan/Bronx got a combined 49 points from Rice's backcourt of Kemba Walker and Chris Fouch, but the deeper Westchester team had an answer for every Manhattan/Bronx push.

After Westchester scored the game's first four points, Manhattan/Bronx broke off on an 8-0 run punctuated by a long three from Fouch. Manhattan/Bronx then matched three-pointers with Westchester on consecutive possessions, and soon thereafter, a lay-up by Delroy Daley off an assist from Travis Nichols gave Manhattan/Bronx its biggest lead at 22-14.

Westchester, however, immediately responded, and behind seven points apiece from Kevin Jones and Jharred Hall, finished the period on a 22-6 run to lead 36-28 after one.

Westchester took what was then its biggest lead - 44-33 - with 8:39 left in the half, when Tony Taylor drained a pair of free throws awarded after an intentional foul by Daley.

Kemba Walker, who had done little in the first quarter, then got to strut his stuff for Manhattan/Bronx. The Connecticut-bound point guard hit a foul line jumper, a pair of threes and a fast break lay-up off a steal to key a 16-3 Manhattan/Bronx run that put the tournament's defending champions ahead, 49-47.

Though Walker then came out for mandatory substitutions, St. Raymond guard Omari Lawrence shined in his stead. Lawrence countered a balanced Westchester scoring attack by notching seven points in the final five minutes of the first half, giving Manhattan/Bronx a 62-59 cushion at the break.

The third quarter, however, would belong to Westchester. With the score tied at 68-68, Westchester went on a 10-0 run capped by a three-point play from Syracuse-bound swingman Mookie Jones.

Westchester continued to stretch the lead from there, and held a 98-81 advantage by the end of three.

In the fourth, Manhattan/Bronx would forge a valiant comeback effort, sparked by Walker and Fouch. Deadeye shooter Fouch nailed three straight three-pointers, and Walker created multiple turnovers to help Manhattan/Bronx begin the period on a 19-6, cutting the Westchester lead down to 104-100 with 5:40 remaining.

Mookie Jones and New Mexico-bound swingman Curtis Dennis answered with back-to-back buckets, stretching the advantage to nine.

A lay-up off a spin move by Lawrence made it 111-104, but Westchester again got consecutive field goals, this time from Dennis and Taylor, to open the lead up again. Then, with 1:28 remaining and Westchester up nine, a Taylor three iced the win.

Dennis led Westchester with 24 points, 12 of which came in the final quarter. Taylor, who grabbed MVP honors for Westchester, tallied 17, Mookie Jones had 16 and Kevin Jones added 15.

Walker had 25 points for Manhattan/Bronx, with Fouch contributing 24. Lawrence also put up 15 for the tournament runner-up.

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