Four high school basketball teams from the Bronx are heading north to Glens Falls this weekend to compete in the New York State high school version of the Big Dance.
Cardinal Hayes (Boys AA), Walton (Boys A), Fannie Lou Hamer (Boys B) and Aquinas (Girls B), all qualified for the New York State Federation tournament, which kicks off tomorrow morning and runs through Sunday afternoon. Each of the four teams has a chance to be crowned state champs in its respective division.
Cardinal Hayes qualified by edging Archbishop Molloy 64-62 in the CHSAA AA Championship in front of a sellout crowd at Fordham University on March 12th. In what many considered to be an upset, the Cardinals jumped ahead early thanks to hot perimeter shooting by Jontai Williams, and they were able to hold off a second-half rally by the Stanners, fueled by Moses Brown and Cole Anthony.
Joe Toussaint, Tyrese Williams, Mark Jackson and Terry Dawkins all had big games for Hayes, especially down the stretch.
The CHSAA title was a big bounce back for the Cardinals, who dropped their opening round game in the CHSAA NY Archdiocese Tournament 51-50 to All Hallows on February 19th.
Hayes will face PSAL Champs Abraham Lincoln in the AA Semifinal on Friday night at 9:00 pm. The matchup should be an interesting one, as the Railsplitters play lock down defense, while Hayes typically thrives when scoring from the perimeter (although the Cardinals did have success getting to the rim in the second half of the CHSAA Final against Molloy).
The Wildcats qualified in dramatic fashion, pulling off what was one of the most exciting comeback wins of the season. After already suffering a lopsided 94-60 loss to top seed Brooklyn Law & Tech on January 28th, Walton fell behind by 19 points to the Jets in the first half of PSAL A Division Final. After coming all the way back to pull within a point at 50-49 with 2:50 left, Brooklyn Law & Tech jumped back in front 57-51 with just 28 seconds remaining.
Walton closed the game on a 7-0 run in the last 28 ticks, winning the PSAL A Division crown on a weakside putback by Arturo Sealy at the buzzer.
Senior Andres Rivera had a monster second half for the Wildcats, finishing the game with 23 points and taking MVP honors, with Sealy, Derek Smith and Louis Florimon all playing big time supporting roles.
Walton will take on Monsignor Farrell, which won its second consecutive CHSAA A Division title by defeating Chaminade, in the A Division Semifinal at 3:00 pm on Saturday.
Fannie Lou Hamer
In order to qualify, the Panthers needed to get past South Bronx Prep, a team that handed Fannie Lou its only loss this season in a 69-63 thriller on January 14th, with the Cougars also boasting PSAL scoring champ Tilquan Rucker. In a tight game full of runs, Fannie Lou finally pulled away in the final minute, topping South Bronx Prep 61-55 to punch their ticket to Glens Falls.
Charles Davis scored 22 points for the Panthers, including this picturesque alley-oop dunk off a lob pass from Shamar Carpenter.
In what is expected to be a well-played affair on the offensive and defensive ends, Fannie Lou will face CHSAA B Champs LaSalle Academy in the B Division Semifinal on Friday at 11:00 am. Fannie Lou and LaSalle Academy have been near the top of the New York State Class B rankings all season, guided by two of the City's top coaches, Marc Skelton and Jerome Pannell.
The Lady Bears qualified by defeating St. Joseph 49-40 in the CHSAA B Division State Final at Fordham University on March 11th.
Kira Villegas had 16 points for Aquinas, which is the only one of the four Bronx teams with a first round buy, scheduled to take on the winner of Seton Catholic (NYSPHSAA) and Holcombe L. Rucker (PSAL) in the Girls B Final on Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Other NYC Teams
The other NYC teams that qualified but are not mentioned above are South Shore of the PSAL (Girls AA), The Mary Louis Academy of the CHSAA (Girls AA), James Madison of the PSAL (Girls A), Staten Island Academy of the NYSAISAA (Girls A), and Dwight of the NYSAISAA (Boys B).
The Mary Louis Academy is led by Co-Miss New York State Basketball and McDonald's All-American Danielle Patterson and James Madison is the only team in the New York State Federation Tournament field that comes in with an undefeated record (24-0).
Let the games begin.