WAYNE, NJ - The John F. Kennedy boys’ basketball squad registered a hard fought but convincing 84-54 victory over cross town rival Eastside in the championship game of the Passaic County Tournament Saturday. Played at Wayne Valley High School, the contest provided a plethora of highlight reel worthy plays. Included in the capacity, standing-room only crowd were former Paterson Catholic graduate and NBA star Tim Thomas, Silk City Mayor Andre Sayegh, and Paterson’s Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer who sported a hoodie with both team’s logos emblazoned on the sleeves.
Kennedy Head Coach Tommie Paterson opted to start a trio of seniors, Mark Herber, Deishon Harrison, and Bre’Quan Moore, and the sophomore tandem of Jayquan Briggs and Yasen Crawford. Eastside helmsman Marquis Webb countered with seniors Joshua Cash and Dazion Pauldo, with junior Levi Holton, sophomore O’shamir Majette, and freshman Treyvon Watson rounding out the first five to take the court.
The Knights were without senior center Jalen Hargrove who was suspended for two games following his participation in a skirmish against Passaic in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Eastside controlled the opening tip but immediately offered up an errant pass against the Kennedy man-to-man defense. The Ghosts countered with a 2-3 zone. However, a sensational shot rejection by Moore led to a wide open swish from well beyond the three-point arc by Herber. Moore followed up with another block for the Knights on an attempted trailer from Holton to Cash who deposited one of two attempts from the charity stripe.
The torrid shooting by JFK continued as sophomore Yasen Crawford notched a three-pointer and Harrison also scored. The latter proved to be a thorn in Eastside’s flesh for the entire afternoon. Whether shooting, passing, assisting on scores, rebounding, or running the offense, the Ghosts, for all practical purposes, had no answer for the steady play of JFK’s confident floor general.
On Eastside’s next possession, Crawford pick-pocketed a pass near midcourt, drove the length of the court, and turned in a spectacular, acrobatic lay-up capped by a successful foul shot for a three-point play. After the Ghosts’ Majette dropped in two free throws, Briggs and Holton confronted each other at half court with the latter being tagged for a reaching foul. Several steals and furious forays up and down the court by both squads yielded no fruit but, despite a distinct height disadvantage, Kennedy’s Michael Jackson III swatted away a shot attempt by Moore. The jostling back and forth at the low post between the two opposing seniors provided a fascinating subplot for the entire game.
With 1:32 left in the first quarter, Harrison converted one of two free throws and teammate, junior Kyle Readus coerced a blocking foul. Cash, while bringing the ball up court, was then hounded by Readus but Ghosts’ freshman Preston Brown Jr. contributed a steal and coast-to-coast, fast break layup. Cash fed Majette in the paint which led to a pair of successful free throws as Eastside pulled to within two points, 12-10. However, the close score was short lived as a JFK scoring spree and virtual offensive clinic in the second fame enabled the Knights to open a considerable lead.
The fireworks began as Briggs fired a pass to Harrison who converted a swish from deep in the left corner. Harrison then followed with his own assist to sophomore Jesus Romero for a deep in the right corner bomb which also tickled the twine. Led by Majette and Pauldo, the white and orange were able to break the Kennedy full court pressure but Harrison intercepted a pass and cruised the length of the court and completed a three-point play. After the Knights forced a traveling violation and a tie-up, the Ghosts’ Holton was able to stop the bleeding with a smooth trey from the right corner. However, Carnegie answered with a resounding shot block after which Pauldo and Moore traded baskets. Harrison then drove deep into the paint and, at the last moment, dished to Herber who, all alone deep in the right corner, calmly converted a three-point rainbow.
With 3:27 left in the half, Harrison’s bank-in of a short runner preceded a spectacular drive and spin-move bucket by Herber. Briggs then pitched in with a left-handed drive and score but Holton answered by pin-balling through heavy traffic from the right wing for a lay-up score. Moore again came to the forefront for the Knights by scoring from inside, being whistled for goal-tending, and converting on a two-handed, near dunk. The Kennedy offensive onslaught was capped by a stop-and-pop ten-foot jumper by Briggs, another score by Moore, and a free throw by Harrison. Interspersed was a bullseye from the left corner by Holton for the Ghosts. The final points of the half were scored on a coast-to-coast lay-up by Cash which resulted in the score: Kennedy 41-Eastside 24.
The second half saw the Knights slowly, but surely, build an insurmountable lead. Holton opened the scoring for the Ghosts with a nifty, reverse layup but Carnegie cashed in on a ten-footer in the lane after JFK fumbled the ball out of bounds. After Cash dished to Brown Jr. for a three-pointer from the left wing, Crawford answered for the Knights with the same from beyond the right, three-point line. Despite a block by Eastside’s Watson, JFK’s Crawford was able to pick up the loose change and score. With 4:41 left in the third, Jackson III reentered the contest and resumed his low post duel with Kennedy’s Moore. The Ghosts then passed the ball around the horn, including from Pauldo to Cash to Jackson III who scored in the paint. However, Harrison quelled any would-be rally with a three-pointer from the left wing.
Despite the increasing deficit, the Ghosts continued to play valiantly as Cash and Majette combined on a convoy, fast break tally. Moore and Majette then traded put-back baskets. After Harrison converted yet another runner, Jackson III shook off Moore in the lane for a shot, was fouled, and hit one of two from the foul line. As time ran out in the frame, a Kennedy 20-footer hit nothing but iron resulting in a 63-39 Knights’ lead.
The fourth quarter was inaugurated by Eastside’s Brown Jr. driving in into the land of the giants and dumping off to Watson for an easy two under the glass. However, the Knights responded with three straight baskets: a steal and length of the court drive by Crawford; a three-point successful bomb from the stratosphere by Readus; and a cherry-pick, tomahawk dunk by Carnegie that nearly brought the house down. Watson scored from the low post for the Ghosts but senior Reynaldo Santos answered with a 10-foot jumper.
The final Kennedy points came on a three-point swish by Romero. Jackson III notched a pair of free throws but it was too little too late for the Ghosts.
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