By Christopher Barca
Before last week, Bayside had not defeated Cardozo in 11 years. But just minutes into the second quarter, with a large lead, it was evident that the losing streak was coming to an end.
“This is probably the biggest win of my career,” Bayside’s fourth-year Coach Cory Semper said after the dominant 55-26 rout in PSAL Queens AA basketball, his team’s 10th straight win. “We’ve given them a run for their money the last two times we’ve played them, but if feels really good to finally win one.”
With a lead that had already extended to 11 at times in the second quarter, Bayside capped off an already dominant first half with an 11-0 run, leaving Cardozo unable to recover. The dismantling of Cardozo (15-5, 11-2 Queens AA) and its lengthy winning streak against Bayside (16-4, 11-2) was complete as the final horn sounded, sending the energized Bayside students storming the court to celebrate.
Bayside’s Uzonna Akazi could only explain the rout with one word.
“Defense. Defense,” said Akazi, who scored nine points in the contest. “We crashed the boards all game long and we played much better defense as a team. Everyone stepped up.”
Bayside played with physicality and controlled the tempo. The Commodores took two charges early in the first quarter and turned them into five points in the resulting offensive possessions.
“We have two different charge drills we run in practice all the time,” Semper said. “When teams get called for charges, they tend to not come in the paint as much. This game was like a chess match, and we made all the right moves today.”
Cardozo attempted to get back into the game with a 7-0 run midway through the second quarter, but Bayside scored 11 straight of its own. Three-pointers from Ryan Tomlin and Brandon King (14 points) put Bayside ahead 29-14 at halftime, and they never looked back.
Bayside came out even more determined to lay claim to victory in the second half while Cardozo walked out of its classroom-turned-locker room lackadaisical. Cardozo only hit five shots from the paint and turned the ball over a dozen times, scoring a mere 12 points in the entire second half.
Unable to get any momentum going on offense, its defense suffered in turn. Cardozo surrendered 18 points in the fourth quarter, including seven to both Akazi and Jamal Roseburgh.
“Today was just one of those days, everything went wrong for us,” Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio said. “Everyone had an abysmal game, but I have to give Bayside credit. They wanted it badly today.”
From the outside looking in, Cardozo’s blowout loss is not a crucial blow to its season. The Judges drop to a still-impressive 11-2, tied for first place in the Queens AA division with Bayside, but Naclerio sees some reason to worry going forward, especially after losing transferring star Jermaine Lawrence two weeks ago.
“This team has taken so many hits,” he said. “We practice and play so hard that maybe we’re starting to run out of gas. We’ve done a really good job sliding pieces around to make things work, but we were sliding on oil today.”
Jan. 31’s prospective passing of the torch from the longtime king of Queens to the up-and-coming Commodores has Bayside dreaming big. Both coach and players are setting their sights high for the upcoming borough and citywide playoffs.
“This is a great win for us moving forward, especially when no one has considered us to win Queens,” Semper said. “We’re always the underdog. Our goal this year is to get to [the ‘AA’ semifinals at] St. John’s and hopefully we get invited to future tournaments that the big teams do.”
Akazi takes his coach’s statements one step further.
“What a huge confidence boost this game was,” he said. “We could go all the way to the Garden this year. We can be special.”