BAYSIDE, NY- With three intriguing games on the docket, the Beacon 158 Back to School Tournament was the place to be on Friday night as the action was hot from start to finish with the preseason now officially in full swing.
It was a proving ground on Friday to see some of the top teams from NYC and Long Island and get a feel for who will be among the best going into the start of the high school season.
There is a lot to cover with each of the three games on Friday living up to expectations, so let's get to it with a recap from the busy night in Queens.
Long Island Lutheran beaches South Shore, 57-47
A game featuring what is expected to be one of the favorites in the PSAL season this, against the perennial power in LuHi, this one was all about physicality and toughness, with the Crusaders proving they got a little bit of everything going into this season to take down the Vikings by 10.
It was all Crusaders out of the gate as Donatas Kupsas '18 was a force from the elbows knocking down a pair of jumpers as he helped LuHi get out to a quick 9-0 lead against a South Shore team that was having trouble against the on-ball pressure of Long Island Lutheran.
Frankie Policelli '18 and Pietro Giovanardi '18 each buried three balls from the opposite wings to push the LuHi lead to double digits early, but Femi Odukale '19 was able to give South Shore a spark with a three of his own, and then a finish on a one on one drive down the left wing, pushing the Vikings on a 9-2 run to see the deficit get knocked down to 15-9.
Living good from behind the arc, Brian Kenyon '19 got in on the three point act as he would hit from the wing to break up the South Shore run as even with Kareem May '20 proving to be a great finisher in the halfcourt attacking the rim for the Vikings, the ball movement by LuHi was giving them great looks at the basket as Tykei Greene '18 started getting it going late in the opening half to allow Long Island Lutheran to push the lead back up to 30-17 at the half.
South Shore never let the game get away from them for the most part as Sekou Sylla '18 was effective both inside taking on defenders down low, while also stretching out for looks on the outside, helping the Vikings narrow the deficit early in the second half to 31-24, giving them hope of climbing back into the game.
LuHi to their credit started to feed the ball down low and work the ball inside to Essam Mostafa '19 as the big man was an impossible stop for South Shore, as getting the ball inside allowed the Crusaders to go on a 14-4 run and take their biggest lead of the game at 45-28 with 12:25 remaining in the game.
Sylla and Odukale never stopped going towards the basket to take on the biggest and more physical LuHi frontline, and with May as a weapon from the outside the Vikings were able to find a rhythm once again, doing a good job going one on one, but with Tyson Etienne '19 running the show, and perimeter shooters all over the floor for Long Island Lutheran, South Shore never got within single digits again.
They were never entirely out of the game, but LuHi controlled the pace and the tempo from start to finish, running their sets and offense to perfection, showing that once again the Crusaders will be a force to reckon with this season as they took down South Shore in this one 57-47.
It was a balanced offensive attack for Long Island Lutheran as Greene was the high man with 13 points, but with Policelli and Kupsas each scoring 10, and Mostafa adding 9, it's easy to see that it can be anyone who gets it done depending on the day for the Crusaders.
Both Sylla and Odukale had 10 points to pace the way for South Shore, with the talented young guard May chipping in with 9 points in the defeat.
Cardozo beats back Half Hollow Hills East, 77-74
While the LuHi/South Shore game was all about physicality, toughness, and outside shooting, this game was a track meet that was all about up and down play, with the Judges showing that even being shorthanded they had just enough to take down one of Suffolk's best this year, taking down Hills East in a shootout by 3.
Playing without the services of Dejavaughn Utley '18 and Collins Onyeike '18 on Friday, the offense was going to be paced by floor general Marcus Hammond '18 who was going to have more on his plate on both ends of the floor with Cardozo missing two of their main scoring threats.
Hammond came out hot from the start as his lefty stroke was on fire in the early going burning the nets from long range to help Cardozo get out to a quick 23-10 lead as the Judges were also doing a great job of limiting the Thunderbirds attempts at pushing the tempo.
That wasn't long lasting though as it's tough to stop both Savion Lewis '18 and Julien Crittendon '18 in transition, and as the opening half continued, both found more and more opportunities in transition to get the Hills East offense going.
Lewis would score 8 straight on his own to draw Hills East closer, and then after back to back buckets by Crittendon and Kenny Mathurin '18 around the rim, the Thunderbirds had climbed all the way back and gone on a 16-1 run to go in front 26-24 with 3:05 to go in the half.
It was at that point that Hammond took control of the game once again as he hit from the elbow, and then picked off an errant Hills East pass, pulled up on the wing and knocked down a triple to put Cardozo back in front.
The back and forth continued as Crittendon would score five straight on the other end for Hills East, helping the Thunderbirds ultimately take a 36-34 lead into halftime in a track meet style game over Cardozo.
With both teams playing the same style of play in the second half as they did in the first, Cardozo jumped out and retook the lead in the opening minute with back to back putbacks in the lane from Hammond off missed jumpers from the outside. Both teams settled a bit from the perimeter, but with the Judges proving to be bigger in the paint, they were able to clean up and get back in front.
When perimeter shots needed to be hit it was Donte Howell '19 to the rescue for Cardozo as they transfer from Virginia came up big with 4 second half three's, including back to back from the same spot on the right wing to put the Judges up 64-53 with 6:50 to play, giving them a cushion and momentum late.
The only hope for Hills East at this point was to ride what got them there and that was Lewis and Crittendon pushing past the defense in transition on offense, and then trying to create turnovers in pressure situations defensively. It worked at times when Cardozo got sloppy with the ball, but the Thunderbirds struggled from long range when they needed shots to fall.
Dorian Haynes '19 was a strong performer off the bench for Cardozo as he came in and was able to connect on important baskets late, but with Lewis able to drive and finish at will, Hills East wasn't going to go away easily. He connected on a big three with 27 seconds left to get the deficit down to 77-71, and then off a steal the Thunderbirds hit on another trey to make it just a 1 possession game with under 8 seconds to go.
Cardozo had trouble inbounding the ball and while Mathurin was able to come up with a steal, his last gasp attempt at an off balance three to tie came just after the buzzer, falling off the rim regardless, giving the shorthanded Judges a hard fought 77-74 win.
Hammond had a great performance in finishing with 22 points for Cardozo, with Howell adding 15 points on five threes’, and Javen Soto '18 chipping in with 10 big points in the paint for the Judges as well.
Lewis and Crittendon both did all they could to try and lead Half Hollow Hills East to the victory as they scored 32 and 27 points respectively for the Thunderbirds in the hard luck loss.
Brooklyn Law and Tech Convicts Wings Academy, 60-53
In the opening of the day on Friday, it was Wings who looked sharp in the early going in taking a three-point lead at the half, but with the play of unsung star Joseph Pena '19 rising it was Law and Tech who came away and shocked the Bronx AA power, clipping down Wings by 7.
A strong Wings start was propelled by the play of Derrick Crothers '19 who looks to be taking on more of a scoring role for the Bronx school this season as he comfortably attacked driving lanes, while also showing the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter as he had 8 early points in helping Wings to a lead of as big as 22-15 in the opening half of play.
David Grady '18 was able to come up and stick a straightaway three for the Jets helping get them going, and with he and Pena carrying the Law and Tech offense, they were able to take a lead at 26-25 with to go in the half.
That lead was quickly erased as Tommy Thomas '19 drained his second three ball of the half with just under a minute to play, and with Brian Mitchell '18 following that up with a long range shot of his own, Wings was able to take a 31-28 lead into the break.
Wings continued to play aggressive defensively while also doing a solid job on the offensive side in finishing in the paint, maintaining the lead all the way up until there were just 9 minutes left in the contest.
Victor Ogbo '18 became a more dominant threat as the game wore on as he used superior footwork, and a strong determination down low to score 6 straight, giving Law and Tech their first lead of the second half at 48-46 with 9:04 to play.
From that moment on, even while Wings was never out of the game, with Mitchell and Crothers each making shots to keep them close, all the momentum was with Law and Tech as Ogbo muscled his way for bucket after bucket down low, and when a shot needed to be made outside the paint, it was Pena stepping up with one of his more complete performances of the preseason.
Even as Larry Moreno '18 struggled with his perimeter shot, the Jets proved that they are a much more complete team this season as everyone chipped in a bit for Law and Tech, knocking off yet another AA team in the preseason, this time downing Wings Academy, 60-53.
Pena was the high scorer for Brooklyn Law and Tech as the junior had 15 points to lead the way for the Jets, while Ogbo and Grady had 12 and 11 points of their own in the victory.
For Wings in defeat it was Crothers who had 15 points of his own, with Mitchell the other double-digit scorer for Wings as he added 10.