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Benjamin Cardozo finally got a chance to regroup from the loss of forward Jermaine Lawrence with a team meeting last week. A day later, they gave the city a better glimpse of how the Judges will win without the 6-foot-9 star forward, who unexpectedly transferred to Pope John XXIII in New Jersey Friday.
“I think we got closer as a team,” junior guard Omar Williams said. “Everybody just stepped up a little bit.”
Cardozo had a team meeting Jan. 18 after winning just once in three games over four days after Lawrence’s departure. Coach Ron Naclerio described it as “rebuilding on the fly.” He has been calling the key players individually more frequently to get their thoughts. Naclerio, his staff and the players did a lot of talking about what happened and how to move forward.
“It’s my job to try to pull it all together,” the longtime coach said.
His club certainly did that against Campus Magnet. The Bulldogs beat Cardozo by four in their first meeting with Lawrence in the lineup. The Judges returned the favor in a big way with a convincing 78-56 win at home in PSAL Queens AA boys’ basketball last Thursday. They fell to New London (Conn.) and Mount Vernon during the span and beat Flushing. The win keeps the Judges in the driver’s seat for a division title.
“It was the final game to show that even though Jermaine is not here, we can still win,” senior wing Ryan Yearwood said. “We felt like we owed them.”
Yearwood dropped in a season-high 19 points to lead a balanced Cardozo attack that relied heavily on ball movement and baskets off turnovers. Danny Janel scored 13 points and Edwin Sainvil and Williams each added 10. Samuel Durodola paced Campus Magnet (12-6, 9-3) with 19 points, Grequan Carter had 16 and Tarik Raynor added 15. Raynor was playing his first game since a severe sprain of wrist suffered in a loss to Bayside last week, according to Coach Charles Granby.
“When Jermaine was here we were trying to feed him in the post a lot,” Yearwood said. “Now it’s more of a flow.”
Cardozo (13-4, 11-1) used a 14-0 run over the second and third quarters to grab control of the game. Williams scored six straight points to start the third and Sainvil capped the spurt by feeding Janel and Ryan Yearwood for easy scores to give the Judges a 45-29 lead with 4:57 left in the frame. The Bulldogs pulled within 68-52 on a Justin Harvey putback with 3:03 left in the game.
“Everyone knows they got to do a little bit more,” Williams said.
He said he spoke to Lawrence last Friday when the major Division I prospect called him from a new cell phone, but has not spoken to him since. Many of the players were still searching for answers as to exactly why it happened. Lawrence’s mother Marcia has stated it was for academic reasons.
“I know he didn’t want to leave,” Williams said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to leave, it’s a choice my mother made. It had to be done.’ I guess it’s just her looking after her son.”
The Judges will now try to move forward doing what’s best for them. They believe they can still make a deep playoff run if they play the way they did against Campus Magnet.
“We do miss him,” Yearwood said. “But we got to play like he was never here.”
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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