By Joseph Staszewski
The magic moment didn’t arrive for Benjamin Cardozo.
A year ago at Barclays Center, Rashond Salnave sunk two free throws in the final seconds to win the Judges the city title. Earlier this year his team overcame a nine-point deficit with less than two minutes to play to beat the Wings for the SNY Invitational title. There was a chance for a stroke of good luck again in this year’s city final when Salnave launched a potential tying 3-pointer from the top of the key with 26 ticks left.
This time the shot bounced out.
“If that goes in now it comes down to 19 seconds, stopping them with defense, getting to overtime or pulling out another miracle,” Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said. “That is the one thing I am going to tell them next year. You can’t live on miracles.”
The second-seeded Judges bid for a second straight crown ended with a 50-46 loss to No. 4 Wings in the PSAL Class AA boys’ basketball title game at Madison Square Garden March 13. Cardozo was looking to become the first Queens school to win consecutive crowns and coach Naclerio would have tied former Campus Magnet coach Charles Granby as the league’s all-time leader in wins with 722.
“It’s never going to be easy to put behind us knowing how close we were to getting another one,” Salnave said.
Cardozo (29-3) had no answer for Jessie Govan, Wings’ Georgetown-bound center. Govan, who lives in Queens Village, scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Govan scored his team’s final five points after Dozo pulled within 45-43 with 1:28 to go in the game. He threw down a two-handed slam and made three of four free throws to help put the game out of reach.
“Their size hurt us a little today,” Naclerio said. “Unfortunately, one or two rebounds were because he’s (Govan) 6 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 260. He was like the Jolly Green Giant that grabbed a couple.”
The Judges, which trailed 20-15 at the half, shot poorly all afternoon. It was 31 percent from the field and Salnave had just 11 points on 1-for-9 shooting. Aaron Walker led the way with 14 points The Judges hung in the contest by making 17 of 24 free throws.
“My shot wasn’t falling today,” Salnave said.
His team’s best stretch came at the start of the second half. It used a 7-2 run to tie the score at 28-28 with 4:00 to play in the third. Randy Corporan answered by connecting on a trey that helped put Wings (26-2) ahead 37-30 after three.
“To Randy Corporan’s credit he hit two big threes,” Naclerio said. “That’s not his strength.”
The defeat didn’t sting like most would because the Judges were champions last season and will be one of the title favorites when next year beings. Cardozo loses guard Elijah McNeeley and post Armando Dunn from its regular lineup.
“I think the future is very, very bright,” Naclerio said. “I think we have a good chance of being in the championship next year.”