For the third year in a row, Boys & Girls has made it to the Promised Land, leaving in its wake yet another team to pick up the pieces.
This year, the victim was Thomas Jefferson.
Led by a surprise performance from senior transfer Rashad Andrews, the Kangaroos defeated the Orange Wave 71-67 in the PSAL Class AA title game at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon.
“We knew that it would come from somewhere on the team, we didn’t know it would come from him,” said Jefferson head coach Lawrence Pollard. “It was his first time playing in the Garden. He didn’t play well against us the last time we played them. We knew he could play and respected him, but when it came to the game plan, we wanted to make the guys who weren’t used to the Garden get those open jump shots and he made his.”
Andrews terrorized Jefferson with some torrential shooting; hanging 21 of his game-high 26-points on the Orange Wave in the first half.
“Coaching is overrated," Pollard said. "You’re only as good as your players. Andrews came out the gate and had 21 points in the first half and he didn’t score against us in the borough championships. He was lights out, he hit that switch.”
Jefferson, which was attempting to win their first championship in 54 years, faced an experienced Kangaroos team with whom they had split the season series at two games apiece.
“Everybody wanted to make history. Ruth wanted to be the first to win three in a row at Boys. We wanted to be the first to win it at Jeff in a number of years. Everybody knew what was on the table today,” Pollard said. “I wish we could play a best of five. They won two and we won two and I know if we played one more we would have got it done. Unfortunately, they got the one that matters.”
It didn’t help that the Orange Wave’s star player, Thaddeus Hall (17 points), picked up two fouls early in the second quarter and had to ride the pine in long stretches. His on-court absence in the first half may have contributed to his poor shooting performance, particularly from the 3-point line (1-for-6).
“I think the foul trouble got to him. I think he kind of forced it in the second half,” Pollard said. “He was real emotional. He wanted to do well today in his last high school game against Boys & Girls. He was up for the game, but it just didn’t work out. They did a good job at not letting him shoot uncontested jump shots. They guarded him in areas he usually takes shots from that most people don’t pick him up at.”
Junior guard, Jaquan Lynch (18 points), acknowledged that it was difficult out the gate and watching the Kangaroos celebrate was painful.
“The loss hit me when they started celebrating, because I could picture that being us going crazy,” Lynch said. “A couple of tears fell out of my eyes but I had to stay strong. We have a summer ahead of us and we have to work on improving.”
Pollard mentioned that the first-time Garden nervousness wasn’t as big a factor as some make it out to be. He said it had more to do with his team not making adjustments.
“I don’t think we had jitters in the Garden, I think that’s overrated," Pollard said. "The basket is the same height. Our guys played well, they played hard. They made some of the same mistakes they’ve been making all year and I think that’s what hurt us.”
Pollard also pointed out that Andrews was the biggest reason for his team’s loss today.
“The difference in the game was that we didn’t have anyone to come into the game and match the output of a Rashad Andrews. He was 5-for-5 in the game from the 3-point line. That’s unbelievable for a kid to shoot like that in the Garden. I tip my hat off to him. He was the difference today. He played a hell of a game.”
“I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of the success we had,” Pollard said. “It was big for the community to come out and support us. Those crowds made Jefferson a tough place to play at.”