By ZACH BRAZILLER
Built like an ox at 6-foot-7, Marquis Barnett’s greatest strengths lie around the hoop — his ability to block and change shots, rebound and finish. Yet, with 6.7 seconds remaining and his Cardozo boys’ basketball team tied with Patterson (Md.) in the Big Apple Basketball Invitational at Baruch College, the senior forward was far from the hoop.
He was at the foul line for two free throws, the game resting in one of his weaknesses: foul shots.
“I was nervous,” Barnett admitted. “All I thought about was just winning.”
Barnett swished the first, which was the difference in the Judges’ hard-fought 62-61 victory over the Maryland school, led by elite sophomore guard Aquille Carr, Saturday afternoon at Baruch College.
“His stat line wasn’t good,” Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio said of Barnett, who had just three points but added nine rebounds. “But he’s not a guy you can measure by his stat line.”
His teammates picked up the slack.
Playing for a scholarship offer he still lacks, Shelton Mickell led Cardozo (14-0), ranked fourth in New York City by the New York Post, with 19 points and unheralded forward Tyrell Hunt added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
In a matchup of elite sophomores, Carr won the battle, scoring 34 points. But Cardozo’s 6-foot-8 underclassman, Jermaine Lawrence wasn’t shabby. He scored 10 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and registered four blocks.
“I’m always telling him he has the most upside of anybody on the court,” Naclerio said of Lawrence, who already holds scholarship offers from Louisville and Virginia Tech. “I tried to get him fired up today by telling he wasn’t the best sophomore on the floor.”
Of Cardozo’s 14 wins, this was by far the toughest. The Judges trailed 16-12 after the first quarter, led by one at halftime and saw a nine-point lead disintegrate in the final quarter as the explosive Carr took over.
His high-arcing three-pointer from the left wing got Patterson within a point at 56-55 with 4:10 left, and a few minute later, after Hunt extended the Cardozo edge to three, Carr got inside for two more. He stole a pass from Mickell — one of four Cardozo turnovers in the final minute — and was fouled with 19.7 seconds remaining. He made one of two, but with a chance to go ahead, missed a scoop in traffic. At that point, Barnett was fouled.
“Unlike last year, instead of finding ways to lose, we’re finding a way to win every game,” Hunt said. “We’re becoming a confident team, but it’s only the beginning. We got to keep playing.”
The 6-foot-4 Hunt has been a pleasant surprise. He didn’t see much playing time as a junior, but he forced his way into the starting lineup this winter and has been a mainstay as a solid perimeter defender and finisher in the paint. Long and rangy, he often guards the top guard on the opposition. As such, Hunt found himself on the speedy and elusive Carr. Though he scored 34 points, it took Carr 30 shots to get there and he missed his final two shots with Hunt draped all over him.
“I love playing defense — that’s my favorite thing to do in basketball,” he said.
After graduating four of five starters, expectations weren’t too high in Bayside in November. Slowly they have begun to rise, even though Cardozo has yet to see a team ranked in the New York Post’s top 10 in New York City. Saturday was its greatest challenge yet, and the Judges passed, albeit with a few rough patches.
“What they’ve done is pretty, pretty, pretty good,” Naclerio said. “I hope they want more.”