Hawks beat Sheepshead Bay, Lincoln next

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For seniors like Mike Thompson and Wayne Inniss and even Ken Gershon — who is retiring after 30 years as head coach —...

By Dylan Butler

For the Hillcrest boys basketball team, motivation for its first round PSAL ‘A’ playoff game against Sheepshead Bay was not a problem.

For seniors like Mike Thompson and Wayne Inniss and even Ken Gershon — who is retiring after 30 years as head coach — there was the motivation of their final high school home game.

Then there was the respect issue — or lack thereof. Hawks players felt slighted that Brooklyn was getting all the attention. They even went as far to cut out a newspaper clipping about the powerful County of Kings and paste it in their locker room.

But after the game, it was Hillcrest who deserved the respect, who deserved the praise, as the 13th seeded Hawks extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games with a 67-60 win.

“After 30 years, its nice to win the last one at home,” Gershon said. “I don’t have to cry yet.”

Hillcrest (19-4) advances to the second round on Feb. 27 to take on No. 4 Lincoln, who dismantled Westinghouse 93-56 Tuesday.

However, early on it looked like Gershon was on the verge of coaching his last high school game. After opening up a 12-2 lead on four straight three-pointers, No. 20 Sheepshead Bay (15-7) broke down the Hawks’ man-to-man defense.

Tyreek Malone gave the Hillcrest guards fits at the top of the key with several first half steals, while Ricardo Knight (16 points) and Michael Kelly were unstoppable in the lane, scoring on numerous putbacks. The Sharks went on a 26-6 run to take a 32-18 lead with 2:37 left in the first half. No. 13 Hillcrest trailed 32-24 at the break.

“Every first half we come out like that,” Thompson said. “We played very nervous and tentative in the first half. We’re a second half team.”

After a first half of getting burned on its man-to-man defense, Hillcrest switched to a seldom-practiced 1-3-1 trapping zone. Sheepshead Bay tried to slow the game down and its head coach, Roy Steinbach, opted to use the 6-foot-4 Knight, who was so dangerous in the paint in the first half, to handle the ball on the perimeter.

“The idea was to spread it out a bit,” Steinbach said. “We penetrated so well [in the first half] when they brought their defense out. We wanted to bring them out and get two-on-one breaks, but they never occurred.”

The plan backfired. Sheepshead Bay missed it shots from the perimeter and without Knight inside, Hillcrest was able to scoop up the rebounds.

“They took [Knight] away from the basket and I loved that,” Gershon said. “He’s a tough kid, but my guys started doing what they had to do. I have some gutsy guys on this team. They play hard and play together.”

The Hawks were able to get out and run on Sheepshead Bay, as Thompson, Martin Hammond and Caban (18 points) slashed to the hole for easy layups.

“That was the game right there,” said Thompson, who had 16 points. “They were going by us in our man-to-man.”

After trailing 37-24 with 5:59 left in the third quarter, Hillcrest went on a 28-6 run, capped by an Antoine Williams (13 points) putback, to take a 52-43 lead with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“When we came out in the second half, we were a little tentative offensively,” Steinbach said. “We weren’t getting off good shots and they wore us down in transition.”

After defeating one Brooklyn team, Hillcrest has another more dangerous one in Lincoln on deck, but at least for one game, Thompson feels Hillcrest earned Queens some respect.

“I’m tired about hearing about Brooklyn,” he said. “That’s what got us hyped. They said Queens gets no respect. We have something to prove.”

Added Caban, “The world doubted us and everyone came through. We wanted to probe everyone wrong. No sleep through Brooklyn? No sleep through Queens!.”

<b>Newtown 54, Kennedy 52.</b> Led by Johnny Carter (24 points, 12 rebounds) and Tristan Verette (12 points), the Pioneers upset the defending PSAL ‘A’ champs Tuesday. Lashard Duren led No. 12 JFK (17-8) with 24 points. Newtown (16-9), the No. 21 seed takes on fifth-seeded Park West Feb. 27 at Hunter College.

<b>Park West 57, Jamaica 49.</b> Ramel Bradley scored 19 points and Knowledge Miller added 11 to lead Park West (19-3) past Jamaica Tuesday. Darryl Eilam led the 28th-seeded Beavers (13-10) with 18 points.

<b>John Adams 76, Academy of Environmental Sciences 44.</b> Taylor Murphy had 29 points and Adrian Smith chipped in 13 to lead the Spartans (15-10) to the first-round PSAL ‘B’ victory Tuesday.

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

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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