By Troy Mauriello
Jefferson guard Shamorie Ponds had the first of what he hopes will be many memorable games at Carnesecca Arena.
The St. John’s University commit scored a game-high 23 points as he helped the second-seeded Orange Wave pull out a 74–65 win over No. 3 Wings Academy in the Public School Athletic League Class AA boys’ basketball semifinal on March 5.
The win sends Jefferson to the final against rival and No. 4-seeded Abraham Lincoln at noon Saturday at Ponds’ second future home—Madison Square Garden. It is Jefferson’s fourth appearance in the title game in the last five years.
In addition to getting his first taste of what it’ll be like to play at Carnesecca, Ponds also got a chance to impress some of his future St. John’s teammates and coaches.
Current Red Storm players Kassoum Yakwe, Marcus LoVett, Federico Mussini, Yankuba Sima and Tariq Owens were all in attendance courtside, along with assistant coaches Matt Abdelmassih and Greg St. Jean.
Ponds was feeling the love.
“It was a good experience, the crowd was on my side a little bit… trying to amp me up,” said Ponds. “I mean, I’m just excited.”
Although Ponds led the way for Jefferson, he had a good deal of help from his supporting cast throughout the night. His fellow seniors Rasheen Dunn, a St. Francis College commit and Curtis Smith scored 22 and 14 points respectively as Jefferson’s big three combined for 61 of its 74 points.
Jefferson jumped out to a 17-5 lead early in the first quarter, but the Wings was able to hang tough. They trailed just 41-40 at the half and were down 62-60 with 3:37 left to play.
Down the stretch, Ponds took over in the arena that he will call home in just a few months. He extended the Jefferson lead to 64-60 with a clutch jumper with 2:58 left, and after Wings pulled back within two, a basket from Dunn with 2:09 remaining had the lead back up to four.
Wings (22-4) got back to within one possession one last time after Jose Perez split a pair of free throws to make it 66-63 with 1:36 left to play, but from there Ponds and the Orange Wave would pull away for good.
Two free throws from Smith extended the lead to five, and following a strong defensive possession, a Ponds layup with 52.1 seconds remaining gave Jefferson a 70-63 lead and all but put the game away.