Kings of the court: Nazareth wins 'B' crown
From the moment it was announced Nazareth High School would close in June, the goal of winning the CHSAA Class B basketball championship had added significance.
There was no bigger motivation than give the school one more glorious moment on the hardwood.
That’s what made Friday night’s 70-47 victory over St. Agnes in the CHSAA Class B final at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym even more special.
“It was like added motivation, having our school close down,” Nazareth senior forward and valedictorian Mike Megafu said. “Having this championship is great for the school. God forbid we close down, but at least we close down with a bang. It’s something people will remember us by.”
It was Nazareth’s first CHSAA title since back-to-back Class A championships in 1988 and 1989. The Kingsmen will face St. Mary’s (Lancaster) for the CHSAA Class B state championship next weekend. The winner advances to the New York State Federation tournament in Albany.
“This is my first championship,” said 17th-year Nazareth coach Todd Jamison. “We haven’t won a championship since 1989, but like I told the guys in there, this is goal number [one]. We still have two more to go for.”
Nazareth (21-6) wasn’t taking any chances Friday night. The Kingsmen got things off on a bang with an alley-oop dunk by Samson Usilo on their first possession.
“That was a plan of the coach, to make us have intensity right from the beginning of the game,” Usilo said. “When he called that play, I was like Oh yes. It went well and we did pretty good.”
While the 6-foot-4 sophomore has made a name for himself because of his dunking ability, Usilo showcased his growing versatility Friday night, including a 3-pointer as he fell into his own bench late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s adjusted real well to the high school game,” Jamison said. “This is his first year playing high school basketball. He realizes its not just about athletic ability and he’s being a leader as well as a sophomore.”
Jamison had a feeling it would be a long day for St. Agnes when he ran into Usilo before the game.
“He’s been waiting for this game the last couple of days, you could see it in practice,” he said. “When I see him come in the locker room and hear him singing some religious hymns, I think, ‘Oh boy, these guys are in trouble.’”
Shajea Stephenson had 15 points, Naquan Chandler had nine and Megafu added eight for Nazareth, which raced out to a 21-5 lead thanks to 14 first-quarter points by Usilo.
The top-seeded Kingsmen had a 41-17 halftime lead and were up by 27 points heading into the fourth quarter.
“No one wants a close game in the championship,” Megafu said. “You want to finish out the season strong, you want a commanding lead so you can finish strong, no pressure.”
Second-seeded St. Agnes (14-9), which last won the CHSAA ‘B’ title in 2008, can look forward to next year with a pair of freshman standouts Dimencio Vaughn (19 points) and Kashif Davis (12 points) and junior guard Brian Zorrilla (10 points) returning.
Nazareth doesn’t have the same luxury, though Jamison is optimistic the school won’t close come June.
“Hopefully this won’t be our last [title] I don’t think it will be, but absolutely, it definitely is special for us,” Jamison said. “I think we’ve got a good chance to be open next year and years to come.”
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