Michael Beckles reminds his squad of just how important their size is on a regular basis.
"We have a really big team," said the South Shore head coach, "And that's definitely something we need to always use to our advantage."
No player epitomized that size advantage better than senior forward Wayne Martin, who was a beast on the glass, often out-hustling everyone on the court. His tenacity on both ends of the floor was key as South Shore defeated John F. Kennedy 63-50, Wednesday night on their Brooklyn home court, to advance to the quarterfinals of the PSAL AA playoffs.
JFK used steady ball movement early in the game and were successfully able to find their way to the line and convert on shots. And when junior South Shore guard Shamiek Sheppard threatened to turn the game into an impromptu dunk contest with an impressive three-dunk sequence early on, the Knights answered with a rally of their own, taking a 16-12 lead to end the first quarter.
The Knights (19-10) weren't able to hold onto the momentum long, as South Shore began to push the action, thanks in large part to their work in the low post.
"We went away from our offense," said JFK coach Johnny Mathis. "We run what we call a no center offense. When we were successful, we were able to score in bunches and get some easy back door layups. When we didn't stick to our offense and make them spread and move, they were able to get us away from what we were doing well."
That disruption to JFK's offense was enough to give the Vikings a 28-22 lead heading into the half with them outscoring the Knights 16-6 in the period.
Martin really came on in the third quarter, particularly because of his effectiveness at getting to the line. While he did not have the most efficient percentage at the foul strip, it was his effortless work on the glass that allowed him to get continuations at free throw line.
His monster dunk with 1:50 to go in the third quarter helped the Vikings quell JFK's biggest run and ensured South Shore would control the action heading into the fourth quarter.
"Coach told me that he thinks I'm the best big man in the city and no big man out there can guard me," Martin said. "I go out there and I play with that mentality because I believe that."
The 6-foot-6 big man filled up the stat sheet with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 15 rebounds, and five steals.
"Wayne was a monster today. Rebounding, scoring, getting to the line and his defense were huge," said junior South Shore guard Terrence Samuel. "He was great. When he plays like that, we can't lose."
Beckles added to the praise saying, "He's one of the best players in the city and when he's aggressive and playing like that, it definitely makes a difference. He's so versatile and he does so many things well."
The win gives the Vikings (19-8) something they've been craving for weeks, a rematch with Boys & Girls. South Shore split the regular season series with the Kangaroos and were eliminated from last season's playoffs by them, so Sunday's quarterfinal match-up at St. John's holds serious significance.
"We're looking forward to it," Beckles said. "We're taking this one game at a time and they're next. We split with them during the regular season and they're the two-time defending champions, but my team and I are definitely ready for the game."
Samuel was more eager in his excitement to describe the match-up, "It's a big, big game because we lost last year. This is the same scenario from last season. We beat JFK and we went to St. John's and lost to Boys & Girls. I don't even know what to say. It's a really big game for us."