By Dylan Buter
It’s been my Wednesday tradition for quite a while now. After my morning hell known as “Production Day,” in which, like elves around Christmas, the small newsroom staff at the TimesLedger puts out all 14 of our award-winning newspapers, on my second or third Diet Coke, I comb over several Web sites to prepare my schedule for the week ahead.
And perhaps because I tend to work week to week is why it came as such a shock, but as I clicked away on the PSAL Web site I could not believe what I was seeing: The regular season is over.
I don’t think I was ready for the postseason just yet. It’s still freezing out; there’s still snow on the ground. Yet starting Friday the borough championships will tip off, which is a prelude to the citywide playoffs, slated to start Feb. 10.
So I thought I’d have a little fun and handicap both the boys’ and girls’ Queens Borough championships.
On the boys’ side, no other team in the borough has more riding on the borough championship than Cardozo. The Judges are three wins away from being one of the top three seeds in the citywide playoffs, which could feature a whopping 50 teams after the PSAL instituted the rule that all teams with a .500 or better record would make the postseason.
Cardozo and neighborhood rivals Grady and Lincoln will finish in the top three, but what spot they get is still very much up for grabs. A loss in the borough championships could jeopardize that for Cardozo.
Not surprisingly, Cardozo, the No. 1 seed in the TimesLedger Top-10, is also the top seed in the Queens Borough championships and will host eighth-seeded Flushing Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Sorry, Flushing, but this one is no contest. Cardozo has too much, from the backcourt of Nick Flagg, Dwayne Johnson and Vic Morris to the frontcourt of Theo Davis, Skyler Khaleel and Drew Gladstone. Flushing has some talent, particularly guard Vernon Teel, but the Red Devils are no match for Cardozo, which will win 82-55.
No. 2 Bayside is home for seventh-seeded Far Rockaway Friday at 4 p.m. Far Rockaway has one of the top guards in the borough in Derrick Gabriel, a transfer from St. John’s Prep, and has a decent supporting cast. But I love Bayside’s frontcourt, especially sophomore Patrick Hazel and senior Ryan Leek.
Guards Tyrone Dulin and Ryan Eisner aren’t bad either and the Commodores are especially tough in their shoebox-sized home court (not that Far Rock’s court is any bigger).
Bayside prevails, 77-65.
No. 3 Campus Magnet faces No. 6 Long Island City. This is the most intriguing matchup of the first round. Under the tutelage of the PSAL’s all-time winningest coach Chuck Granby, Campus Magnet shook off a slow start and has been playing solid basketball of late.
The Campus Magnet Bulldogs have a solid crop of seniors, including Stephen Brevitt, Carlos Cadet and Lavell Sobers as well as a very talented freshman in Keith McAllister. Meanwhile the Bulldogs of Long Island City are surely looking for some respect, despite playing in the weakest of the three Queens A divisions, and they can make a nice step forward with a road win Friday.
Led by point guard Michael Laboy, who scored his 1,000th career point last week, two-sport star Preston Bell, who can score layups and catch touchdown passes, as well as sharpshooter Silvio Marfe, LIC is 18-4 and 12-2 in Queens I-A. But they haven’t played any significant non-league games. LIC split with Flushing and Forest Hills and beat up on B-division’s Academy of American Studies and Franklin K. Lane.
I’ll give LIC the benefit of the doubt and say they’ll keep it close, but Campus Magnet will pull away in the fourth quarter and win, 62-55.
The final first-round game is between No. 4 Van Buren and fifth-seeded Jamaica. The Beavers have been inconsistent of late, going 3-3 in Queens II-A down the stretch. And led by forwards Craig Davis and Will Egwu, Van Buren has done well, including a 59-48 win over Jamaica on Jan. 16.
Make it 2-0 for Van Buren, which will prevail, 66-59.
The semifinals Saturday at John Bowne will pit Cardozo against Van Buren and Bayside against Campus Magnet. I know I’m not exactly going out on a limb here, but the two schools from Bayside will meet for the borough title next Thursday at Elmcor after the Judges top the VeeBees, 84-61, and Bayside defeats Magnet, 70-59.
As for the final, I have to go with Cardozo. Bayside has played well for two halves against the Judges this season. Unfortunately for the Commodores, it was in separate games. Why should the script change now?
Bayside will play a close first half before ultimately falling to Cardozo, 78-61.
I may be wrong — hey, it wouldn’t be the first time — but it doesn’t look like the girls’ tournament will be very competitive at all, with the exception of maybe one semifinal game.
Francis Lewis is head and shoulders above the rest of the borough and will walk away with the Queens title for a third straight year, beginning with a 71-44 win over John Bowne.
In fact, all four A division schools (Francis Lewis, Townsend Harris, Cardozo and August Martin) should win in walks in the first round, although fourth-seeded Martin should have the toughest game against No. 5 Beach Channel.
The semifinals will then pit Francis Lewis against August Martin — the Patriots have doubled up the Angels twice and should win once again Saturday, 66-52 — while after splitting a pair of games during the regular season, Townsend Harris should beat Cardozo, 61-58, in overtime.
The final next Thursday at 5 p.m. will be a repeat of Friday’s game, a 70-54 win by Francis Lewis. I like Townsend Harris. They’re smart and they play hard, but I don’t think they have enough talent to overcome Francis Lewis, which will win, 80-66.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.