PSAL Championship Recap
Boys & Girls beats archrival Lincoln when it matters the most.
by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
On the NYC prep basketball scene, Lincoln vs. Boys & Girls is no different than the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. There’s a whole lot of bad blood and history behind it. When you add the fact that there’s a city championship at stake, you got yourself at first-class duel.
The last time these two teams met at the Garden, things were a whole lot different. It was 2008 and Lance Stephenson was king of New York. In comparison to yesterday’s game, Boys & Girls HS had more than just respect for Lincoln—it seemed like they might have feared them. And if anything was a sign, it was the final score. After stellar regular seasons in 2007 and 2008, Boys High would end up getting crushed at MSG by Lincoln, with final scores of 77-50 and 88-57, respectively.
But so much has changed since then.
Boys & Girls came into yesterday’s championship game as the defending champs after defeating Cardozo, 55-50, in last year’s contest. Moreover, from the moment they hit the floor for warm-ups, the facial expressions on the players’ faces exhibited a more confident illustration. They knew that they were the ones with the city swag now and that both teams were carrying a different group from the last time these two teams met at MSG.
Lincoln had arrived as the No. 1 seed. In fact, they were able to take down the Kangaroos in their two meetings during the regular season. But in reality those two games couldn’t be used to as a measuring stick or comparison. Throughout the course of the season, Boys High had to battle with the absence of their players due to being suspended for failing to meet academic standards. In their games against Lincoln, two of their star players were unavailable. Antione Slaughter, a 5-7 senior guard, sat out the December game, while Rutgers-bound Michael Taylor sat out the second meeting in February. And despite being short handed, the Kangaroos were able to hang around and eventually lose both games by less then six points.
This time around, with all of their players eligible, the outcome promised to be different.
From the opening tip, Boys & Girls looked to be the aggressor. This game was one sided from the beginning. For Lincoln, the largest and last time they led was by one, 15-14, with over a minute to go in the first quarter. It was then when the Kangaroos began to take off. A lay-up by Taylor, followed by an alley-oop dunk from forward Leroy Fludd after a crisp pass by Slaughter, followed by a couple baskets and free throws by Fludd, sent Boys & Girls into 10-0 run—giving them a 24-16 lead with over five minutes to go before the half.
A couple of lay-ups by Lincoln’s super freshman Isaiah Whitehead and senior Reuben King cut the lead to 28-24 heading into the half.
Fludd led the way at the break with 10 points. Ironically, Fludd is a Coney Island native. It’s very rare that you see a Coney Island basketball player leave the neighborhood to play ball for another school.
To that end, all of Lincoln’s latest stars—Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, and Lance Stephenson (and now Whitehead; read ahead for more)—have come from its backyard. Even Quincy Douby, who didn’t attend Lincoln, starred at nearby William Grady HS. One thing is to leave the neighborhood; another thing is to go and play for the hated archrival. That’s a sin if you ask Coney Islander, but not if you ask the Fludd family. For Fludd, his folks rest assured that Boys High would be the best place for him to grow on and off the court. And so it seems he has.
For Lincoln, the 6-4 frosh Whitehead led the way with 8 points heading into the locker room. He’s already being hailed as the next big thing to come out of New York City. And yes, he’s a Coney Island native. If yesterday was any indication, he’s on his way to possibly becoming a blue-chipper. With numerous articles written during the offseason about the hype, expectations have begun to rise. And after watching the way he played in his first game at the Garden, you can see why. The 15-year old played fearlessly. Although erratic at times, Whitehead showed a plethora of confidence and willing to get physical on every single possession. He was the team’s leading scorer but far from leading the team in shot attempts—going 7 for 10 from the floor, two of three from behind the arc, and hitting both of the free throws he took. And then you have the little things, such as flicks and diving on the floor for loose balls that don’t show up on the stat sheet. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but if there was anything evident on Sunday for Lincoln—with Lance Stephenson in the stands—is that the Coney Island school may have found its successor to the ’09 McDonald’s All-American.
Throughout the third quarter, both teams traded baskets. Lincoln’s junior big man, Kamari Murphy was grinding it out in the paint on both ends of the floor. Thus, he finished the game with 13 rebounds and 3 blocks, aside from scoring 15 points.
Unfortunately for the Railsplitters, they couldn’t find a way to contain Slaughter or Fludd. Slaughter, although visibly the smallest player on floor, has the ability to use his quickness to create open shots for himself. If not, he can put the ball on the floor, get to the basket and draw a foul. Fludd just continued to crash the boards, and Lincoln didn’t seem to have an answer for him.
Heading into the fourth with Lincoln trailing 43-35, the crowd, which as usual seemed to outnumber Lincoln’s, began to take the noise level up a notch. And as expected, Lincoln would attempt to put together a late-run. Murphy, a 6-9 forward who’s reportedly been getting looks from Big East, ACC and CAA schools, and Whitehead would lead Lincoln into a 10-3 run by scoring eight quick points, cutting Boys High lead to 51-48 with under two minutes to play.
But that’s as close as they would get. Slaughter and Fludd, who’ve been giving Lincoln problems all game long, along with Taylor, simply began attacking the rim for lay-ups or a chance for two from the line – hitting seven of ten free throws in the last minute-and-a-half to close out the game for the Bed-Stuy school. The 62-55 victory gave Boys & Girls their second straight city title, as well as ending their drought against Lincoln at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Slaughter took home MVP honors with 19 points and 3 steals. Fludd, also tied Slaughter with a team-high 19 points, to go along with seven rebounds and five steals. Taylor, the future Scarlet-Knight, had an off day—shooting 2 for 10 from the floor—but still managed to finish with 14 points after going 9 for 10 from the free throw line.
For Lincoln, Murphy, who’s been rumored to be heading to prep school next season, took home the sportsmanship award after his 15 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks performance. Whitehead was the only other player for Lincoln who scored double-figures, finishing with a team-high 18 points and 5 rebounds (also 7 turnovers but expected from a freshman). Senior Shaquille Stokes, who was the team’s leader throughout the season, couldn’t find his rhythm—shooting 2 for 13 from the floor—and scoring 9 points in the game.
And as Boys & Girls celebrates their back-to-back city championships, let the talk begin for a possible rematch at the Garden come next March!
But before that, please reflect on an intense game at MSG by enjoying this photo gallery, as shot by Mark Gong. Also check back here later for some video highlights.