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Point guard Henry Moore's 30-footer as time expired in the first half of Sarah J. Hale High School's game against John Adams on Sunday afternoon was a foreshadowing of things to come. The basket brought Hale within one point of third-seeded John Adams, 25-24, as Adams controlled the tempo of the first half with solid shooting.
The second half was a totally different story. Second-seeded Hale took over the game with a frantic full-court press, which Adams was unable to solve, leading Hale to a 74-58 win at St. John's University in the PSAL Class B semifinal playoff contest. Hale advances to the championship to take on fifth-seeded Roosevelt (22-2) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden at 9 a.m. Roosevelt defeated Wingate on Saturday in double overtime, 98-95.
John Adams' (18-4) head coach Emil Ostenburg thought his superior bench would help propel his team to victory, but Hale didn't need its bench for much scoring since all five starters notched all but two of the 74 points. Moore, with a team-high 18 points, Hason Parker with 16 points, Reggie McCuller with 15 points, Roinel Benoit with 13 points, and Deandre Wynn with 10 points led the balanced attack for Hale.
"I saw them play twice and scrimmaged them once," Ostenburg said. "They had four real good players. I thought our bench would help us. I didn't think they had a fifth man or a bench, but everyone stepped up for them today."
Especially Moore, who did a great job of running the offense with relentless lane penetration. Hale, (19-4) went to the press in the second half and stymied the Adams' offense. Moore read the passing lanes extremely well and turned many Adams passes into steals. Hale's press led to many easy baskets off turnovers.
"His floor direction was magnificent," Hale head coach Charles Kaplan said about Moore. "He's the best point guard I have ever had. He gets the job done, but doesn't receive enough publicity."
Kaplan has been coaching for 27 years and this will be his first appearance in a championship game. Kaplan, a very emotional coach on the bench, said he has been to Botanical Gardens, but never to the real Garden. In all likelihood, this will be the last season for the basketball team since the school will have only 100 students next year.
"I wanted to win it for our coach," Moore said. "He hasn't made it to the Garden in 26 years. He gets us hyped to play. That's our motivation. He never wears out. Now he finally has a chance to win it."
Guy Andre opened the third quarter for Adams with five straight points, for a 30-24 lead. Then Hale's press took over. Hale went on a 14-0 run with several baskets coming off steals that were converted into easy layups for a 38-30 advantage. Jamah Francis scored five straight points for Adams to cut the lead to 38-35.
"It was their quickness," Ostenburg said. "The first burst of the second half put us down by eight and it was a different game. Once they opened the game, they controlled the tempo. That's what a good team does."
With 11 seconds left in the third quarter, Parker was at the line. After hitting his first free throw, he missed the second, but Benoit followed the miss and scored on a putback to push Hale's lead back to eight at 48-40, a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Hale would go up by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter.
"Our team didn't play to the best of our ability," Adams' Sheldon Newsome said.
Andre led Adams with 18 points, while Lyndon Noriega and Francis each scored 12 points.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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