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Queens’ Adeleke can’t carry Robeson to title

As he sat in the locker room lacing up his sneakers, Kenny Adeleke spoke about a lesson learned. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-8 Rochdale Village resident, it took a 75-60 loss to Brooklyn rival Grady in the PSAL Class A final Sunday at Madison Square Garden — his final high school game — for the Paul Robeson senior to learn the importance of playing hard for the full game.

“My game comes from working hard, getting offensive rebounds, getting the hustle points,” said the DePaul signee. “Today that didn’t come and it kinda hurts a little.”

Adeleke, who averaged 18 points per game his senior year at Robeson, scored just four points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field in 25 minutes in his high school finale. He also had 11 rebounds, but was clearly outplayed by Falcons frontcourt player Michael Clarke who scored 18 points for second-seeded Grady (26-3) in the rout.

Clarke, who spotted Adeleke three inches, was named the game’s MVP as the 6-foot-5 senior also grabbed 11 boards.

“Height doesn’t mean anything,” Clarke said. “It’s about heart, that’s what I care about. I guess we had more heart than them.”

Adeleke scored Robeson’s first point on a free throw 1:45 into the game, but he picked up two fouls 33 seconds apart near the end of the first quarter, forcing Eagles coach Larry Major to pull him out of the game.

Despite his struggles, top-seeded Robeson (27-2) led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter. Adeleke was back on the court to start the second quarter, but again was not effective. He missed a gimmie from the right blocks and lost the ball on an interior pass by Gary Ervin. With 5:02 left in the half, Adeleke again found himself on the bench.

“We want to get the ball to him,” said Major, whose team shot 32.3 percent (20-for-62) from the field. “But if we make our shots, it makes life a lot easier.”

The third quarter was Adeleke’s most productive as he grabbed several rebounds and scored his other three points, on a free throw and a breakaway dunk — his lone highlight of the afternoon — which cut Robeson’s deficit to 43-39 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

But Adeleke was again plagued by foul trouble in the fourth quarter, picking up his fourth of the game on a baseline charge. With 4:33 left and Grady threatening to blow the game wide open, Adeleke again found himself out of the action with his team trailing by 10.

“The fouls hurt a bit, but you still have to play hard,” Adeleke said. “I didn’t play with enough intensity until late. I didn’t get the opportunity to do a lot of things.”

After many memorable moments at Robeson, Adeleke’s final remembrance of his high school career will be watching Grady parade around the famed Garden hardwood with the city title knowing he didn’t play his best basketball. It will be painful memory, a tough lesson. And one Adeleke hopes he doesn’t have to learn again.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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