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Cardozo gets by Gompers, moves on to semis

Ron Naclerio didn’t feel lucky when he arrived at Hunter College Sunday afternoon for the Cardozo boys’ basketball team’s PSAL Class A quarterfinal game against Gompers.

Already down one starter when sophomore point guard Vic Morris was ruled academically ineligible Jan. 31, the Cardozo coach learned Saturday he would be without 6-foot-4 Skyler Khaleel, his lone low post threat, who needs surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee he suffered during a pickup game last week.

Despite being terribly undersized and with star guard Cameron Tyler struggling with his shot, No. 5 Cardozo managed to get a few breaks down the stretch to defeat No. 13 Gompers, 51-45.

The Judges advance to the semifinals for the first time in three years and will take on top-seeded Lincoln, which struggled to defeat No. 9 Frederick Douglass Academy, at St. John’s University Saturday at 6 p.m.

“You have to be a little good and lucky, and ‘lucky’ is a word we haven’t had,” Naclerio said. “Today, at least we were a little lucky.”

Gompers (21-8), which used its intimidating frontcourt of 6-foot-4, 230-pound Stedford McLeod, 6-foot-6, 225-pound Ahmad McClure and 6-foot-4, 235-pound Darren Bailey to defeat fourth-seeded Beach Channel in the second round last Thursday, never truly punished Cardozo down low.

The Judges actually held a 29-28 rebounding edge.

McLeod had 15 points — 13 in the second half — and 6 rebounds, but the rest of the Panthers struggled offensively. McClure had 8 points and 7 rebounds and Greg Campbell, Jr. and Bailey each scored 8 points before fouling out.

“I didn’t think we used our height to our advantage, especially in the first couple of minutes of the first half,” said Gompers coach Ned Jackson. “You can’t judge a basketball player by height. They’re aggressive and they played big.”

Despite shooting 4-for-18, the ball was still in Tyler’s hands late in the fourth quarter. With his team clinging to a 44-43 lead with 1:34 left, Tyler sunk four free throws in a little over a minute to put Cardozo (22-8) ahead 48-45 with 31 seconds left.

“No matter how I play, I want the ball,” said Tyler, who averages 30.5 points per game. “Blame everything on me. This is my team.”

Tyler struggled from the perimeter but was able to slash through the lane to score his points.

“He’s a strong guard,” Jackson said of Tyler. “We tied him up but he still got the shots off. He didn’t shoot a lot of long shots; he hurt us more penetrating.”

Cardozo had solid performances from its supporting cast. Dwayne Johnson had 10 points, Raynard Jones had 9 points and 7 rebounds, Nick Flagg scored 8 points and Mark Rios had 5 points and 7 rebounds.

The Judges also benefited from what seemed to be a traveling call on Nick Flagg, who collapsed to the floor at midcourt on a double-team with the Judges leading 46-45 with 41 seconds left. But the officials ruled Naclerio called timeout before Flagg hit the hardwood.

Cardozo faces defending PSAL champion Lincoln (27-4), which squeaked past No. 9 FDA (20-10) Sunday at Hunter College. Sebastian Telfair had 14 points, but shot just 4-for-13 from the foul line for the Railsplitters, who struggled to adjust to the game’s slowed pace set by the Lions.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Telfair said. “They have guards and we have guards. It should be an up and down game.”

“I hope he doesn’t do the same style,” added Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, whose team defeated Cardozo in the Judges last trip to the semifinals in 2000. “[Naclerio] runs too much for his kids to stand still.”

Cardozo 80, Urban Peace 62. Tyler scored eight of his team’s first nine points en route to a team-high 24 points and Jones added 21 points for the Judges, who defeated No. 12 Urban Peace (14-4) in the second round last Thursday at Elmcor. Paul Flowers led the Panthers with a game-high 27 points.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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