"I knew we were going to win," he said.He was one of the few, that's for sure.You see, with the exception of the boro's CHSAA teams and Cardozo, Queens teams are considered soft throughout the city. Maybe not Staten Island soft, but come playoff time Queens teams are not supposed to go on the road and win playoff games. Especially not in Brooklyn.When it comes to high school hoops, THE place is Brooklyn. Brooklyn is the boro that is home to the three-time defending PSAL champion Lincoln Railsplitters, the same team that featured Stephon Marbury and most recently Sebastian Telfair, the same team that the movie "He Got Game" was about. And while Lincoln may be the Yankees of Brooklyn high school basketball - and with one-year transfers, such as Eugene Lawrence and Kevin White, that analogy is even more apropos, compared to the all-star free agents the Bronx Bombers bring in every year - there are several other great teams.There's Lincoln's biggest rival Grady, there's neighborhood rivals Boys & Girls and Robeson. Actually, just about any team from Brooklyn is good. If, for no other reason, because they're from Brooklyn.But last week Queens scored a hat trick of sorts in Kings County. No. 18 Springfield Gardens beat 15th-seeded South Shore, 71-68 in a mild upset. Charles Jenkins had 16 points and 10 assists and knocked down a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds left for the Golden Eagles.No. 26 Bryant went down to Fulton Street and stunned Boys & Girls, 68-66 in overtime. Tony Dennison had 26 points, including five in overtime, and Johnny Barnes added 19 points and 15 rebounds to lift the Owls over No. 6 Boys & Girls. And then a couple of blocks away, Hazel and the rest of the 25th-seeded Commodores shocked No. 7 Robeson, 53-51."They do think we're soft, that we're not a competitive team. We had to show them what we're about," said Hazel, who had 30 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks for his second consecutive triple-double. "There really are some good ball players in Queens. We just have to show them. That's what we're trying to do, make a statement."Oh, did they make a statement. When Hazel was called for a foul in the second quarter of a tightly contested game, about 20 spectators ran onto the court. That's when four-year player Ryan Eisner, who tore his ACL earlier in the year, leaned over and told a Bayside assistant coach, "If we win this game, there's going to be a riot here."He's not Kreskin, but he was damn close. Hazel drove on the baseline and was going to attempt a reverse layup in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, but at the last second the junior forward saw Brandon Smith, whose layup with two seconds left gave Bayside the upset. A few Bayside players, clearly jubilant over the win, began to chant, "Bay-side, Bay-side." Not a real good idea when you're in hostile territory and the Robeson fans took exception. They rushed the court and threw things at the Commodores players as they were hurried into the locker room. One player was even hit in the back of the head during the skirmish. The team waited about 20 minutes for the NYPD to arrive and were then escorted to their team bus. As a parting gift, two windows on the bus were busted by rocks thrown by a few fans. "When we got out, they had pretty much blocked off the whole street," Eisner said. "They walked with us until we got on our bus."The PSAL is investigating the incident.After a brief hiatus, the playoffs resume Tuesday with 16 teams still alive in the Class A competition. Six are from Queens.The games, of course, get tougher now. No. 16 Long Island City, which beat Monroe at home, takes on top-seeded Lincoln and Bayside takes on ninth-seeded Wadleigh. Bryant faces No. 10 Manhattan Center, Springfield faces second-seeded FDA, third-seeded Cardozo takes on No. 14 Grady and No. 13 Campus Magnet faces fourth-seeded Wings.It would be another upset if Bayside, Bryant and Springfield advance again. But one thing is for sure, they're not considered soft anymore."I think people are starting to give us a little recognition now," Hazel said. "People are starting to see that Bayside is a team to be reckoned with, not just a pushover like some of the Queens teams that made the playoffs before."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2005 Community News Group
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