By Troy Mauriello
Benjamin Cardozo’s big three alone were greater than Construction as a whole.
Stars Rashond Salnave, Tareq Coburn and Aaron Walker combined for 68 points, enough to outscore the rival Red Hawks by themselves in a comfortable 84-67 home win to the clinch the PSAL Queens AA division boys’ basketball title Feb. 4. The Judges have won 13 straight league titles.
Salnave, who is headed to Monmouth next season, led Cardozo with a 33-point performance that included six three-pointers. Walker continued his strong play from the SNY Invitational with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and Coburn had 18 points of his own. It’s been rare to have all three playing well at the same time.
“That’s probably the first game of the season where we all were clicking together,” said Walker. “It’s just really good when that happens.”
They were the only players in double figures for the Judges for the night. However, their performances, along with a strong fourth quarter, were enough to keep Construction from playing spoiler and stealing the division crown.
The Judges (15-1) took an eight-point lead into a final frame that would belong solidly to Cardozo, or more specifically, to Salnave. The senior was fearless in the fourth, as he drained four three-pointers and scored 16 points in the quarter to put the game well out of reach. The big three actually scored all 26 of the team’s fourth-quarter points.
“I’m capable of doing it from the beginning,” Salnave said. “Getting my points, getting the rebounds, getting my teammates involved… doing a little bit of everything.”
Manhattan College head coach Steve Masiello was in attendance, as were members from the Fordham and St. Joseph’s University staffs. Walker already has a scholarship offer from Manhattan.
The supporting cast was strong when they needed to be for Cardozo. Sophomore DeJavaughn Utley scored eight while senior Amiri White added five and was effective on the boards.
For Construction (14-2), Marcus Saint Furey (25 points) hit four three-pointers during his strong performance. The normally sharpshooting Red Hawks, however, hit only six shots from downtown on the night. Senior Wesley Nelson had 17 points. Classmates Bryshon Bryant and Joseph Nicolas added 10 points each.
Construction was able to jump out to an early 5-0 advantage in the first quarter, but that would end up being its only lead of the night. Cardozo responded from that point with a 15-6 run to take a 15-11 lead after one quarter that it would not relinquish.
While a high-scoring second quarter saw the Judges lead grow to as much as eight, Construction was not going to go away easily. An eight-point quarter from Saint Furey kept Construction within five, 40-35 at the half, before Cardozo eventually put the game away.
The win completed the regular-season sweep for Cardozo before another potential meeting in the Queens Borough final on Valentine’s Day. Construction has defeated Cardozo in two straight borough title games.
“We’ve gotten division titles already,” Salnave said. “Now we’ve just got to clinch the [Queens] championship, we haven’t been winning that lately.”