All Ron Naclerio could think was, "Here we go again."
The head coach of the Cardozo High School boys basketball team watched as a 16-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter dwindled to just four over Queens rival Campus Magnet in a PSAL 'A' second round playoff game at Hunter College Thursday.
After all, the same scenario played out two months ago when the Judges blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a 71-70 overtime loss to Campus Magnet at St. John's University.
Daryll Hill didn't have to be reminded about that loss. "I felt real bad, I can't really describe how I felt."
And Hill was determined not to close out his high school career with a third loss to the Bulldogs, as the senior point guard scored a game-high 31 points, including seven of his team's final 10 points as Cardozo defeated Campus Magnet 68-58.
No. 9 Cardozo (20-6) advances to the quarterfinals to take on top-seeded Paul Robeson (24-1), which defeated Brooklyn rival Midwood (18-8) 66-53 behind 16 points from Queens native and DePaul-bound Kenny Adeleke. the two teams will meet Saturday at Lehman College at 4 p.m.
"We made sure Daryll took over the ball," Naclerio said. "I feel we have the best player in the city, pound-for-pound and inch-for-inch. He told me before the game, 'Coach, we're not losing.'"
Hill made sure his bold statement rang true.
Leading by just four, 53-49, and with the momentum squarely in Campus Magnet's favor, Hill drove along the baseline for a critical layup. Following Devon Ray's putback, Dimitri Dimitropolous (17 points) drained his fourth three-pointer of the game to give the Judges a 58-51 lead with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter.
"I definitely felt [we were panicking], but we've been through it so many times," Naclerio said. "I thought [we'd be fine] if we could just work on the delay - we do have the guards - and get the ball to Daryll.
Hill made sure his teammates did just that. The ball was in his hands in the final three minutes of the game. Trailing 58-53 with 2:11 left, the Bulldogs were forced to foul and send Hill to the free throw line. He went 6-for-10 from the charity stripe in the closing moments to clinch the win.
"At first I thought we were going to lose it because we starting panicking," Hill said. "But we calmed down, I told them I got [the ball] and that we're not going to lose."
Of course it helped that after a 13-1 run brought eighth-seeded Campus Magnet (19-5) to within four, 53-49, the Bulldogs went cold from the field, going 2:12 without a field goal.
"They were the better team today," said Magnet coach Chuck Granby. "They outplayed us. They got out in front of us, but we didn't quit and we came back."
Cardozo led 20-13 after the first quarter and took a 31-20 lead with 3:56 left in the second quarter when Hill's 20-foot jumper from the top of the key capped an 8-0 run. But led by Ray, who scored 13 first-half points - including nine of his team's first 13 points - Campus Magnet cut the Judges' lead to 34-27 on Elvis Belone's trifecta.
But Ray picked up his second and third fouls two seconds apart and sat for the final 1:29 of the half as Cardozo went into the break ahead, 38-30.
Ray returned in the third quarter and drained back-to-back jumpers, but after that he was not nearly as effective. He scored just seven more points to finish with a team-high 24 points.
Cardozo closed out the third quarter on a 9-2 run, capped by Dana Townsend's tip-in at the buzzer to go ahead, 52-36.
The Bulldogs roared out of the gate in the fourth quarter. Mike Simonds (17 points) scored a baseline layup, Andrew Goidon scored from the left blocks and converted a three-point play. Ray nailed an off-balance jumper in the lane and scored on a putback and Simonds netted a floater in the paint to cap a 13-1 run to slice Cardozo's lead to a mere four, 53-49, with 4:13 left to play.
"We played so hard and looked so good and then out of the blue it's amazing how things change," Naclerio said. "This is the one team that I've coached that doesn't learn its lessons well. They never realized that one small play could start the run."
And with the game on the line, Naclerio again leaned on Hill to get the job done. And the senior guard nicknamed "Showtime" finished the job.
"All day we said we were not losing to them three times," Hill said. "I told them we were not going to lose. I just had so much confidence in myself."
©2001 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.