By Daniel Martin
You could almost predict what would happen next as Austin Williams caught the basketball on the right wing with seconds winding down and the score tied against his neighborhood school.
Three of the senior guard’s friends play for rival Campus Magnet of Cambria Heights and Williams had recently returned after off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
The moment was too perfect.
He hoisted an arcing three-pointer over a defender that sailed through the net as he was knocked to the floor with two seconds remaining. He pulled himself up as hysteria swept through the gym and raised three fingers in the air to acknowledge what he had done.
He handed Bayside a thrilling 71-68 victory in PSAL Queens AA boys’ basketball last Thursday night. Campus Magnet had an unsuccessful attempt to tie with seconds remaining.
“Every time I see my friends, they’re going to talk about that shot,” Williams said with a laugh. “From here until forever.”
Williams started out slow in the first half, struggling to find his place in the up-tempo offense, but found his stride after halftime.
As if to predict how Williams would seal the win, he pulled up from the left wing from three-point range and nailed a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter to extend the Commodores’ (4-0) lead to six. That was part of a personal 5-0 run. He finished with 23 points on the night, but no three more important than those that put Bayside ahead for good. Nohah Vickers paced Campus Magnet (1-2) with 19 points.
“I had to give [the final shot] to Austin. He’s been starting for me for four years, so I’m gonna ride with him,” Bayside Coach Cory Semper said. “I don’t care how bad he’s playing. I’m gonna ride with him.”
Barker added 19 points and was a large part of the transition attack. It was something Semper says he will be looking to throughout the year.
“He’s been carrying us all year,” the coach said. “Cantrell has to learn how to play at a different speed. He plays 100 miles per hour. Nobody in our league can score like him.”
Last Thursday night was Bayside’s first test of the year, having won its first three games by an average of more than 27 points. It gave a chance for the Commodores to get contributions from interior and wing players, including senior Gagandeep Singh, who finished with 10 points.
“We needed this fight,” he said. “It’s always a dog fight.”
And the fact that it came close to home for many of the Bayside players, including Williams, is special. It’s a win they will always remember and not let Campus Magnet forget.
“Ninety percent of my team is from this area, so they’re all going to be walking home together,” Semper said. “There’s going to be a lot of talking.”