BROOKLYN, NY - The PSAL semi-final playoff game between Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson is a marquee game in any year. On Wednesday, it was supposed to be a marquee game in name only. Lincoln dominated the PSAL this year, going 16-0 in Brooklyn AA which is the best division in the city. Naturally, they were supposed to dominate the semi-final match-up played at Long Island University for the right to go to the Barclays Center for the championship.
So when Jefferson was able to get the lead early against Lincoln, the defending champs, and keep it all the way to the end, it was totally unexpected. Jefferson put on an assault on the rim from deep behind the three-point line and it carried them to a 77-74 upset.
Jefferson head coach Lawrence "Bud" Pollard didn't think it was an upset. He reminded reporters after the game that he had predicted a win against Lincoln before the last game at the Borough Championships. He wasn't wrong about beating Lincoln. It just happened to be this time and not that time, which is the way Pollard put it.
The Orange Wave played with confidence from the very beginning of the game. Lincoln actually had a run in the second quarter where they looked like they were going to take control and cruise to an easy victory. Two free throws from senior wing Desi Rodriguez put Lincoln up 28-21 with 2:58 left in the half. Jefferson had been struggling to score throughout the period but they were aggressive, going to the line four times in a three minute span to keep the game relatively close.
But there was sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds making a three from the left elbow to make it 28-24. Ponds three was the start of 13-2 run to close out the first half, which also ended in a three pointer by Ponds.
Leading 34-30 at the start of the second half was surprising enough to most spectators who were at the game, but the way Jefferson took control of the game was even more of a jolt to the system. Lincoln finally started to score a little, but Jefferson made four threes in the period to increase their lead to 12 by the time the third period finished. Ponds made two more, while senior guards Patrick Brown and Devonte Wilson each made one.
With the score 58-46, Lincoln made a run and seemed to turn up the intensity, almost getting all the way back into after a step back jumper form Anthony "A.J." Williams. The score was 60-58 when Rodriguez fouled out of the game. Jefferson followed that with three straight lay-ups, two by Brown. On the other hand, Lincoln had four straight turnovers. The outcome was no longer in doubt at that point. It was just a matter of when the clock would hit triple zeros.
Pollard thought his team would win. He believed his team was better than Lincoln. He was asked why he thought that Jefferson could beat a team that had already knocked Jefferson off twice.
"I'm always optimistic and I believe because this is my team and I always think we can win" Pollard said.
Pollard also wanted his team to stop being nice guys on the court. He wanted his team to play like animals and he felt that they had gained some courage. And because of that they will be playing in the first official high school basketball PSAL championship at The Barclays Center.
Brown led all scorers with 23 points, while Ponds and Daquaise Andrews had 21 and 20 respectively. Isaiah Whitehead and Elisha Boone each had 18 points as a game high for Lincoln. Rodriguez had 14 and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
Jefferson, the #4 seed in this year's PSAL playoffs will play #3 Cardozo for the PSAL City championship on Saturday.
Cardozo Skools Brooklyn Collegiate, 73-49
Once Cardozo took control of this game, there was not much left to do. Rashond Salnave made some highlight worthy plays to help set up his teammates for easy baskets. Salnave finished with 9 points but Cardozo's big men were the big time contributors to the win. Carl Edhoua Balthazar scored 16 points, while Francisco Williams had 14. Both had 11 rebounds.
Cardozo was too long and dominated the paint throughout the game. It was close early but Cardozo started pulling away in the second half. They will play Jefferson on Saturday for the championship.