By Dylan Butler
Junior forward Drew Gladstone hopes it is the wake-up call the Cardozo boys’ basketball team needs. Because if it is not, last Thursday’s lackluster 82-69 win over Far Rockaway in the first round of the PSAL ‘A’ playoffs could be one of the Judges’ last.
Top-seeded Cardozo led 24-10 at the end of the first quarter, 49-32 at the half and was up by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter.
But the Judges did not put the game away when they had the chance and, led by point guard Derrick Gabriel who scored a game-high 37 points, No. 32 Far Rockaway (17-8) got within nine with less than two minutes left.
“On any given day we could have lost to the 50th seed. Every team is gunning for us because we’re No. 1, so we can’t stop playing our best,” Gladstone said. “We know that any team can beat us so we just have to play harder each game.”
It was not the way a team hoping to play at Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick’s Day should close out a game.
“The kids don’t realize this isn’t the NBA, three-out-of-five, five-out-of-seven,” Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said. “One bad game or a sloppy turnover or one tough call or one missed layup and all of a sudden you have tears coming out of your eyes.”
In front of former stars and St. John’s products Daryll Hill and Ryan Williams, as well as legendary coach Lou Carnesecca — who was there to watch highly touted junior Theo Davis — and following a stirring rendition of the national anthem sung by Cardozo soccer coach Rich Parascos, the Judges came out flying.
Cardozo (24-3) scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points and it appeared the rout was on early, but Gabriel was the difference for the SeaHorses.
The first-year senior, a transfer from St. John’s Prep, was phenomenal and on his 21st point of the first half, Far Rockaway trailed 39-28 with 2:13 left in the first half.
“Everybody doubted us. They looked at our size and they started laughing,” Gabriel said of Cardozo. “We’re proud of ourselves because we worked hard and showed what we could do against a so-called No. 1 team.”
But seconds later Gabriel picked up his fourth foul, forcing first-year coach Anthony Miele to sit his star for the remainder of the first half. Cardozo immediately closed out the first half on a 10-4 run.
Cardozo extended its lead to 22, 69-47, on a pull-up jumper in the paint by Nick Flagg, who had 19 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, but Gabriel kept Far Rock around.
He scored nine straight points to bring the SeaHorses within 76-67 with 1:29 left before finally fouling out with 29 seconds left in the game.
“I’m disappointed because we do usually shoot the ball well. I wish we could have knocked down some more shots from the outside,” Miele said. “Even though I’m very pleased with it, I truly believe in the middle of the third (quarter) that we had a shot, but the shots didn’t fall that usually fall.”
SkylerKhaleel had 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, and Davis had 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks for the Judges. Vic Morris had 17 points and four assists but had an uncharacteristic nine turnovers, and Gladstone added 12 points and five rebounds for Cardozo, which takes on No. 17 Manhattan Center in a second-round game Feb. 25 at Elmcor.
“We have a bull’s-eye on our back,” Khaleel said. “We just have to stay together and get it done. We have to get hot and don’t stop because if we lose it’s all over. It’s not going to be easy but we can do it.”
Bayside 79, Canarsie 61. Ryan Leak had 24 points and nine rebounds, Tyrone Dulin had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Brandon Smith added 16 for No. 11 Bayside (21-7) in a first-round game Friday. The Commodores will take on sixth-seeded Boys and Girls in a second-round game Tuesday at Lehman College.
Jamaica 60, Tottenville 50. Kevin St. Pierre had 27 points and Daniel Desir added 16 for No. 18 Jamaica (19-7), which advances to face second-seeded Grady in a second-round game Feb. 27 at Lehman College.
Boys and Girls 51, Beach Channel 35. Arthur Robertson and Michael Pledger combined for 31 points for No. 38 Beach Channel (10-11) in a first-round game Friday. James Gilmore had 22 points to lead No. 6 Boys and Girls (22-6).
Grady 79, Townsend Harris 43. Jamel White had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Basil Leslie had 19 points and Akeem Combs added 16 for Grady (23-5), while No. 31 Townsend Harris (19-5) was led by Louie Elrose’s 29 points, including six three-pointers.
Monroe 61, Van Buren 46. Darian David had 22 points, Ronald Crippen had 18 points and Michael Glover added 11 points and 16 rebounds for No. 13 Monroe (24-4) in a first-round game last Thursday.
Wadleigh 101, Campus Magnet 75. Dominic Jones had 25 points, Diloo Brown added 17 and Michael Hayward had 15 for No. 14 Wadleigh.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.