BRONX, NY - The Wings Academy vs. Wadleigh rivalry has notoriously been good throughout the years, but with Wings looking like one of the best in the PSAL this year, the Tigers were going to have to bring there A game to have a chance in the Bronx.
Unfortunately for them, the Tigers struggled right out of the game, and fell to Wings 64-51.
Wings got out of the gate quick, with Jessie Govan scoring on the inside off a nice feed from Desure Buie to make it 7-1 in the early going. Govan also had a pair of blocks early, but the game was being tightly called, and the Wings big man picked up his 2nd foul with 2 minutes to go in the opening quarter. The Tigers though could not find the bottom of the basket. They had 1 made FG in the 1st quarter, and fell behind 16-8 after one, something that infuriated Wadleigh head coach Mike Crump, who blamed the poor start squarely on one thing.
"It is fear. We came in here and a lot of these kids haven't played in a game like this. We have a lot of first year varsity guys and they came in with fear. All they heard about was Wings, and they saw that big kid and I saw their knees start knocking," a disgusted Crump said.
Wings was not a happy bunch either. Late in the first, Buie picked up his 2nd foul, and was relegated to the bench along with Govan, something that did not make their head coach, Billy Turnage, very happy.
"Anytime two of your better players are saddled with fouls for the whole first half, it's gonna change what you do, but luckily we had guys who came in who played real good games," Turnage said.
He did have players step up, especially in that 2nd quarter. Corey Pierce made a wing three, while also attacking the basket nicely, while big man Ray Pender, who starts alongside Govan, filled into Govan's roll nicely and finished strong on back to back possessions in the paint, something Buie said didn't surprise him in the least.
"Our bench is better than a lot of other teams out there so I think they can really hold their head high today with how they played," Buie said.
A bright spot for Wadleigh was Gerald Osei-Owusu, who scored on a baseline drive, and then hit a pretty floater in the lane, but the Tigers were still down 27-16 at the half, and Crump was truly livid at what he was seeing.
"We practice set plays in practice all the time, and then we get guys who take it upon themselves to freestyle. You cannot do that. If you don't stick to the script, this is what will happen against good teams," Crump said about the opening half.
Govan and Buie both returned for the 3rd quarter, and Govan knew that he needed to come out with a different mindset in the 2nd half to make a difference on the game.
"I had to come out strong in the 2nd half and play smart on defense, put my hands straight up, and not get silly fouls like I did early on," Govan said.
He did just that, he recognized how the game was being called, and started to really cement his name in the game with his short hook shot which was falling in the 3rd, and he was menace not he glass, really putting his stamp on the game.
While Wadleigh never let the lead for Wings get totally out of control, trailing at the most by 21, they never gave the impression that they were going to get close enough to make the game really interesting, something that Crump felt was his own teams fault.
"We should've won. How many FT's and lay ups did we miss? It was embarrassing to watch. I wanted to dig a hole and crawl out of here," Crump added.
Behind Lenny Kadisha, who after a tough first half, scored 8 in the 2nd half, the Tigers did manage to cut the deficit to 11, but they just couldn't make the big shot at the big time, and Wings was able to hold on for the 64-51 victory.
Govan led all scorers in the game with 17 points for Wings, Pierce added 14, and Buie and Pender each tallied 10.
Osei-Owusu paced Wadleigh with 12 points, while David Rispers and Juwan Wilson each added 10.
While it may not have been the greatest performance his team put out this season, Turnage understood after that game that not every game is going to be a cakewalk, and that while not pretty, it's still a W.
"It's a learning experience for us. It's the closest league game we have played this year, and couple that with the fact you have to play through certain situations, and I thought we showed a lot of grime and grit today to pull it out," Turnage said about the win.
Crump was not as kind. The loss really had the Wadleigh head man mad after the game, and he said he after this game, he knows exactly how tomorrow's practice will go.
"This might be the best team in the PSAL and we didn't show up. It's flat out embarrassing. Tomorrow I'm gonna run them to death, and if they don't come in, then give me my uniform," an angry Crump said afterward.
Turnage was just as displeased, as he is still waiting for his squad's first full 32 minute performance of the season. He says they are close, but it didn't happen today. Today was just a win, and nothing more, and he may have put it perfectly at the end.