By Chris Barca
In their last two regular-season match-ups Bayside beat Cardozo and celebrated in court-storming fashion.
On Feb. 7 with first place on the line, Cardozo boys’ basketball Coach Ron Naclerio wanted his players to reverse that trend and leave their home gym with a lifelong memory and a title.
“As a coach, I want to teach them to be the best players they can be, but I also want to teach them about life,” he said. “I wanted them to remember this game, and I really think they will.”
That’s because the Judges held off Bayside’s electric second-half comeback attempt in a wild, back-and-forth affair that featured five ties and five lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Cardozo emerged with a 78-69 win over the Commodores, thanks to senior Omar Williams scoring 16 points of his game-high 32 points in the fourth. The Judges earned their 11th-straight PSAL Queens AA crown, including a tie with Bayside last year and the top seed in the borough tournament.
“This was such a huge win,” Williams said. “I just wanted to step up big for my team. I was really feeling it out there. I wanted to help my team win.”
Bayside trailed 38-30 at the half, but the Commodores stormed back via lethal perimeter shooting from Cantrell Barker and Brandon King, who scored 23 and 13 points. They each nailed three-pointers to put Bayside ahead in the third quarter.
Barker also sank free throws to give Bayside a lead three different times in the fourth quarter. Williams was quick to respond. He countered with three three-pointers and hit four free throws in the final minute to give Dozo the crown.
“This was our first goal, to win the division,” Naclerio said. “We’ve been the king of Queens since the 1980s and my record against Bayside is 66-6 now. But this is the best Bayside team we’ve played since 2002.”
When two rivals play a high-stakes game, chippy play can be expected, and that was no different last Thursday. Technical fouls for trash talking and elbows were called on both teams at various points in the game, but the low point came when the contest had already been decided.
With one minute left, fisticuffs broke out behind the Cardozo bench as a handful of rowdy fans screamed back and forth with a few Cardozo players, leading to pushing and shoving between nearly a dozen people before police intervened.
Despite the tough loss, Bayside Coach Cory Semper walks out of the gym with his head held high, knowing his team can match up with the borough’s best.
“Omar killed us. He’s shooting professional threes in high school, can’t do much to stop that,” he said. “But the kids aren’t down. These are the wars you need to fight to get better.”