By Dylan Butler
Rahshon Clark had heard the Gompers boys’ basketball team was big, but the Beach Channel senior found out soon enough just how big. Between drawing charges and getting hammered when he exploded to the basket, the lanky 6-foot-5 Clark seemed to spend as much time horizontally as he did vertically Thursday at Elmcor.
But it wasn’t its imposing frontcourt that made the difference in the final minute of the fourth quarter with No. 13 Gompers clinging to a two-point lead. Instead, senior guard Cleon Wiley stole the show and the ball — twice — in the final 20 seconds to lift the Panthers to a 58-51 upset win over No. 4 Beach Channel in the second round of the PSAL Class A playoffs.
“I don’t get nervous like the other kids,” said Wiley, who doubled his scoring average (7 points per game) during the playoffs. “I just anticipated the pass. We cut off the first pass and I watched the ball and saw it coming.”
Gompers’ massive frontline of Stedford McLeod (11 points), Ahmad McClure (10 points, 8 blocks) and Darren Bailey would make most football coaches drool, and they certainly gave Beach Channel coach Jim Malone headaches.
“I thought we boxed out on a lot of occasions but there’s not one of them, there’s three of them,” Malone said of Gompers frontcourt. “They’re physical and didn’t let us cut. It impeded our progress.”
So did turnovers, and none loomed larger than Wiley’s strip of Dolphins point guard Victor Alvarez with Beach Channel (22-3) trailing 54-51 with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“If he was bumped or not, he did get stripped,” Malone said of Alvarez, who finished with 8 points. “I would have liked to have done more damage; we’re a good team.”
So is Gompers, which scored the first eight points of the game. Until Wiley’s heroics, it appeared the Panthers were on their way to a second straight second-round loss as back-to-back turnovers on inbound plays opened the door for Clark and Beach Channel.
But the Dolphins also struggled to handle the ball down the stretch. It didn’t help that Beach Channel had to play the final 6:26 without Arthur Robertson, who had 9 points and fouled out on a phantom hold while setting a screen.
“We were just running like we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Clark, who will attend prep school in the fall. “The turnovers messed up our whole coordination.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.