By Anthony Bosco
The No. 1-ranked Cardozo boys’ basketball team had to fight off a stubborn No. 9 Banneker club — literally — Saturday night, winning the uncomfortably close 52-50 PSAL Class A quarterfinal matchup at St. John’s University’s Alumni Hall.
With Banneker in front 44-43 with 3:05 left in regulation — the Brooklyn school’s first lead since early in the third quarter — the Judges’ Nick Flagg and the Warriors’ Glenn Martin got into a physical altercation near the Banneker bench and needed to be restrained by coaches and teammates.
Both players were issued flagrant fouls and ejected from the game. As a result, Flagg will not be eligible for the Judges’ semifinal match Saturday at St. John’s against fifth-seeded Sheepshead Bay, which defeated fourth-seeded Columbus.
“I saw his face. He got punched. He’s bleeding,” Cardozo head coach Ron Naclerio said of Flagg. “I want to see what he did. I’d like to see the tape. If he broke the rule, fine.”
Less than a minute later, Banneker’s Marques Damon and Cardozo’s Dwayne Johnson were both hit with technical fouls after another altercation, but neither was ejected.
The game had all the earmarks of a rough and tough city basketball game from the outset, with Cardozo (27-4) relying heavily on 6-foot-10 Theo Davis early on.
The game, which featured a host of turnovers and lackluster shooting by both clubs, was even for most of the game, with Cardozo holding two-point advantages after the first and second quarters, 14-12 and 27-25, respectively.
Cardozo’s biggest lead of the half was five just more than two minutes into the second quarter, when Davis registered the first dunk of the day.
“Very physical, very hard,” Davis said of the game. “All year that was the hardest game. We expected a hard game. I know there is harder than this to come.”
The Judges held a slight advantage through the first half, but it was tentative at best. The two teams continued to swap the lead in the third, with Cardozo going up by five on a Skyler Khaleel basket at the 3:35 mark.
Two free throws by Johnson at 1:14 pushed the lead to six — the largest of the day — before Banneker pulled to within four heading into the fourth.
The Warriors tied the game after Damon scored four straight to open the fourth quarter and then put his team up by three after connecting on two from the foul line just after Flagg and Martin were ejected.
Vic Morris got the Judges within one at 2:08 and Johnson put Cardozo ahead to stay at the 1:22 mark when his floater in the lane fell through.
Banneker had an opportunity to tie the game with just one second remaining on the clock, but the Warriors’ Shaun Thomas, who was fouled by Skyler Khaleel, missed two free throws that could have forced an extra session.
Damon led all scorers with 14. Johnson was the high man for Cardozo with 13, followed by Morris with 11, Davis with 10 and Khaleel with nine.
“Not to disrespect Banneker, ’cause they’re a very good team, but if it were 4-out-of-7 or 3-out-of-5, the only team I think would beat us is Lincoln,” Naclerio said. “But it’s not. It’s just one game.”
The Cardozo-Sheepshead Bay semifinal matchup will tip-off Saturday at 6 p.m. at St. John’s University. No. 2 Lincoln will face off against No. 3 Grady in the other semifinal at 4 p.m.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.