By Brandon Mauk
Cardozo’s seniors had just one glaring thing left to accomplish in their successful four-year run, and they weren’t going to squander their final chance at it.
After coming up short in the final in each of the previous three seasons, this group of Judges finally claimed the PSAL Queens borough boys’ basketball championship with a 78-64 victory over Queens High School of Teaching at York College Sunday.
Cardozo, which won a city crown two years ago, lost in the borough final to Construction in each of the previous two seasons and Bayside the year before that. It was hungry to get over the hump.
“You look at what we’ve done and what some of these kids have accomplished. There was something missing on their resumé, and it was a Queens Borough Championship,” Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said. “This is something they’ll always have.”
The only PSAL team to beat Cardozo (25-2) this season stood in its way. Queens High School of Teaching (22-5) stunned the Judges on a half-court buzzer beater in December, and looked ready to do it again. Two of Cardozo’s prominent seniors made sure that didn’t happen.
Monmouth-bound Rashond Salnave scored 20 points and paced the Judges early. In the second half, Aaron Walker completely took over when he dropped in 22 of his game-high 34 points over the final two quarters to help push Cardozo over the top.
The Judges needed everything they could get from the pair, as fellow key senior Tareq Coburn quickly got into foul trouble and was limited to two points.
“Aaron and I, we took matters into our own hands, and we took control of the team,” Salnave said. “We capitalized on plays we needed to.”
Cardozo fell behind early, before Salnave then gave his team a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter.
QHST responded with a 6-0 run before the end of the half to cut Cardozo’s lead to 31-29 and eventually tying things up at 31-31 early in the third quarter. C.J. Kelly led the Tigers with 25 points.
Walker responded by scoring 12 points in the the third quarter to push the Judges’ lead to 55-42 going into the fourth
“I was just being aggressive, things were working out for me,” Walker said. “My teammates kept trying to get me the ball, shots were falling.”
Walker and Salnave continued to pace Dozo in the fourth with fast breaks and emphatic dunks, as they put the game out of reach.
“This game meant a lot to us, because of the last three years,” Walker said.
With Jefferson’s loss to Lincoln in the Brooklyn borough championship, Cardozo should earn the No. 1 seed in the PSAL city playoffs, and its class of seniors and longtime coach have another title on their minds.
“The kids that have been with us for this run want more,” Naclerio said. They hope this is not the end.”