By Patrick McCormack
Cardozo isn’t ready to give up its perch atop PSAL basketball in Queens.
The Judges got 21 points from sophomore guard Rashond Salnave and dispensed of host Construction 72-58 with first place on the line in the PSAL Queens AA division Monday.
Cardozo, which beat Brooklyn Collegiate at the buzzer the day prior, has won 11 straight league crowns. Construction moved up to the ‘AA’ this season.
“It was a big win for us,” Judges Coach Ron Naclerio said. “We have been the king of Queens for so long. I know Construction wants to be like that. A couple of years ago it was Forest Hills, before that it was Campus Magnet and Edison. For these kids to come through with flying colors makes me feel good.”
Cardozo senior Kristian Mondesri, who had 10 points, ended the first half with a three-point play that put Cardozo up 41-36 at the break. Mondesir opened to the scoring in the second half and a bucket by Carl Edoua Balthazar gave the Judges a nine-point edge early in the third quarter. Construction was able to cut the Cardozo lead to five, and that was as close as it would get in the second half.
“We came out with the win because we followed the scouting report,” Salnave said. “It told us everything we needed to do. We played our game, and our game led us to victory.”
The Judges (8-0) used a 14-6 run late in the third quarter to help put them up 59-46 heading into the fourth. Cardozo opened up the lead to 70-51 in the fourth en route to the win. Construction saw itself outscored 32-22 in the second half and Coach Cory Semper pointed to the third quarter as the difference. Justin Wright-Foreman paced the Red Hawks with a game-high 31 points.
“We had some turnovers that hurt us and they went on a run,” he said. “What people don’t understand is this is our first time playing at this [level].”
Semper is in his first season at the school after coming over from Bayside. He was happy with the way his team competed in the first half. Semper knows the Red Hawks need to play well for an entire game to overtake a team like the Judges.
Salnave put his team up 15-11 in the first quarter when he completed a four-point play. Another Salnave basket made it 23-17 heading into the second quarter.
The Judges went up 26-17, but five-straight Construction points trimmed the lead to just 26-22. The Red Hawks then went on a 7-0 spurt to tie the score at 36-36.
Mondesri said Naclerio stressed at halftime the importance of getting off to a quick start after the break — advice they took and executed to earn the win.
“He just wanted us to come out strong,” Mondesri said. “We usually come out strong.”