Thomas Jefferson steals show at state champs
by Bryan Fonseca
Mar 23, 2016 | 10220 views | 0 0 comments | 219 219 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was Federation weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany, and six state champions were honored over the course of three days, putting new faces at the top of the New York basketball scene.

Among the highlight affair was the boys “AA” portion of the event, where Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson boys’ varsity squad captured their first state championship.

Before reaching the final, Jefferson entered the “AA” final four fresh off a 90-61 dismantling of the Lincoln Rail Splitters in last week’s PSAL City Championship game.

At the Federation final four, Jefferson topped State Independent champion Long Island Lutheran, 69-62, behind 27 points from senior guard and St. John’s commit Shamorie Ponds.

Awaiting the public school city champs were the public school state champion Aquinas Little Irish of Rochester, who defeated Catholic Intersectional winner and Brooklyn’s own Xavieran High, 54-43, on the other side of the semis.

When Jefferson met Aquinas last Saturday, it was the Orange Wave who started off with the upper hand, leading the Little Irish 37-24 after the game’s first half. Shortly thereafter, the Little Irish finally found their offense, posting 23 third-quarter points, thus entering the fourth trailing 55-47.

Although Jefferson didn’t outscore Aquinas in the final eight minutes, they managed to put the nail in the coffin, winning 72-65 and taking home their first state title.

Senior guard Rasheem Dunn, a St. Francis (Brooklyn) commit, poured in a team-high 21 points, nearly doubling his 11-point output from the night before. Coming off of his 27-point outburst, Ponds added 16 points and seven rebounds in the final.

Senior guard Curtis Smith, who finished with only four points on 2-of-11 shooting in the semis, bounced back in a big way with 15 points for the Orange Wave.

Jalen Pickett led the way for the Little Irish with 21 points and 15 rebounds, capping off his junior campaign with a big-time performance.

Ponds, Dunn, Smith and Pickett were each named to the All-Tournament team, with Ponds taking home Most Valuable Player honors.

With their shiny new Federation “AA” State Championship, the Orange Wave finish the season at 25-9 to conclude their magical 2015-16 run, which saw them finish 13-2 in their last 15 games after losing five straight from late December to early January.

Spartans spoil Telecom’s title chase

Elsewhere in Albany, PSAL “A” Champion and Brooklyn-based High School of Telecommunication Arts competed in the boys Federation “A” bracket after last week’s 54-51 win over Frederick Douglass in the city final.

In the “A” fabulous four, the Yellow Jackets of Telecomm were matched-up with the NYSPHSAA Champion Spartans of Elmont.

The game itself began as a scrappy showdown with Elmont narrowly leading 10-9 after the first. Telecom hung around as Elmont slightly extended their lead to enter the halfway point ahead 27-22.

In the third quarter, the Yellow Jacket offense began to come around, netting 17 points to the Spartans’ 13, placing them once again within one point, trailing Elmont 40-39 after three.

With Telecom well within striking distance, the Spartan offense found their flow, and their defensive rhythm put the beats on, negating the Yellow Jacket sting by allowing only five points in the fourth.

Elmont ultimately cruised to a 61-44 victory over Telecom, ending the dream season for the Brooklyn representatives.

Jalen Burgess scored a team-high 17 points for the victorious Spartans. K.C. Ndefo and Travis Robinson-Morgan added 12 each, with Ndefo recording five huge blocks.

Devin Ballour acted as the main source of offense for the Yellow Jackets, netting a game-best 21 points. Ballour, a senior guard/forward, was the lone double-digit scorer for Telecom, who finished their season with an outstanding 19-5 record and their first city championship.

Elmont later advanced to the “A” finals and lost to NYSAIS Champion Albany Academy (18-4), 63-51. The loss caps-off Elmont’s 2015-16 run with an impressive 24-4 record.

South Shore falls short in ‘AA’ final

On the girls’ side of the ‘AA’ bracket, Brooklyn’s South Share Vikings girls’ varsity squad was paired-up with New York Public School State Champion Ossining in the Federation semis. The Vikings earned a spot after shutting down Francis Lewis, 55-39, in the PSAL “AA” final at Madison Square Garden on March 12.

In the Ossining-South Shore showdown, the Vikings were off to a slow start as the ladies from upstate mounted an early lead, and only allowed 10 first half points. The offensive-minded Ossining squad only dropped 17 first-quarter points and was off to a slow start as well, considering their 82.5 points per game average before the Federation tournament.

At halftime, Ossining held a 37-28 lead, inching closer to their offensive form.

Both teams were evenly matched throughout the third quarter with South Shore edging out Ossining, 13-12, which left them behind 49-41 heading into the fourth stanza.

Ossining then opened up their lead before shutting the door for good, taking home a 67-51 win, and a trip to the “AA” finals.

The loss dropped Brooklyn’s South Shore ladies to 23-5 for the year, ending a truly remarkable year for the PSAL titlists.

NYSAIS winner Long Island Lutheran met Ossining in the championship contest, but Ossining eventually took home the gold with a 64-54 triumphant win, finishing their run at the “AA” Federation title with a 28-2 overall record. LuHi’s season ended with a highly respectable 19-6 record.

McClancy puts up a fight in “B” bracket

The lone-Queens representative over the three days were the “B” Monsignor McClancy ladies, who were coming off of winning the Catholic School title.

McClancy scrapped with New York State Public School champ Livonia High School in the “B” semis. The two combatants engaged in one of the most closely fought games in all of the Federation tournaments, which ended in a slight 61-60 win for Livonia after a clutch free throw from Molly Stewart with 1.8 seconds remaining in overtime.

Stewart finished with a game-high 20 points for Livonia, and teammate Madeline Herzog added 16.

Taylor Aybar and Kristina Krslovic, whose three-pointer tied the game in OT with 29.8 seconds left before Stewart’s game-winning free throw, led the way for McClancy, sharing a team-high with 17 points apiece.

Livonia moved on to the “B” title game, where they lost to the PSAL’s East Harlem Pride 53-49.

Elsewhere around the Federation tournaments, Collegiate knocked off Salesian 63-45 to win the boys “B” title, led by Everett Witt who scored 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line.

In the girls “A” championship, Staten Island Academy outlasted Jamesville DeWitt, 68-65, for their second consecutive Federation title. Last year SIA took home the “B” crown.

Clare Mitchell led SIA with 21 points, while teammate and senior Corinn Baggs added 18. Emily LaPointe, an SIA freshman who came up big late in the game, finished with 11 critical points.

Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @bryanfonsecany.
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