By Laura Amato
They knew the stakes, they just weren’t particularly interested in them.
The John Bowne boys’ basketball team didn’t care about the squad on the other side of the court or the perfect league record Queens High School of Teaching was going for Tuesday evening..
The Wildcats only cared about themselves and putting one final notch in the win column before the end of the regular season.
That’s exactly what they did.
Bowne played spoiler to the Tigers’ run at an undefeated in-borough season, grabbing a 90-88 upset victory at home.
“We’re hungry,” senior guard Christian Hinckson said. “We were just trying to stop their 15-0 win streak. We just came out there and played hard and did what we had to do.”
The Wildcats (12-4) opened the game firing on all cylinders, setting the tempo and pushing the pace as they jumped out to a lopsided 56-41 halftime lead.
Alejandro Vasquez led the charge, a force from just about anywhere on the court, as he scored 25 of his team-high 37 points in the first two quarters.
“I just made sure I kept my head up and I just kept the ball up,” said Vasquez. “We were feeling real good. The three-point shot, everything was falling and we were just playing real well together.”
Teaching, however, was not willing to go down without a fight and Tigers’ (15-1) star CJ Kelly seemed determined to lift his team to victory.
The senior hit his stride in the third quarter, connecting on jumper after jumper and racking up 14 points in the period.
Kelly gave Teaching its first lead of the game with 58.7 seconds left in the quarter – after Bowne was whistled for a technical – and then, for good measure, put the Tigers up one at the end of the period with a deep three-pointer.
“They started hurting us around the elbow, where they were able to get the ball in and score from there,” Bowne coach John Tsapelas said. “We usually play man, but we just didn’t want their quickness to isolate us and get us into foul trouble.”
Kelly padded Teaching’s lead in the early minutes of the fourth, going on a personal five-point run with just under six minutes on the clock to make it a three-point game.
Bowne, however, refused to give up – the Wildcats simply regrouped, refocused and settled into the offensive game plan that had worked so well in the first half.
Vasquez, of course, led the charge and Bowne answered Kelly’s run with one of its own, capped off by a three-point play from the sophomore shooting guard.
“We play hard together and we just didn’t let up,” Vasquez said. “We’re real confident. We’re just going to play together and stick to the game plan.”
Things got dicey down the stretch as Teaching continued to try and claw back, but the Tigers could never quite get over that final hurdle.
Vasquez made it a four-point game with 12.5 seconds on the clock, giving Bowne just enough of a cushion to hold on down the stretch. Kelly – who finished with 37 points – went two-for-three from the line on the ensuing play and the Wildcats were able to wrap up the victory in the final moments.
Now, Bowne is simply hoping the win is enough to help grab a bit of home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
“It’s got to help us,” Tsapelas said. “A top-eight spot would mean we’re playing home and then a neutral site. So we’re not stepping into anybody’s gym. That was very important to us.”