Cardozo boys basketball coach Ron Naclerio thumbed through 12 pages of comprehensive notes that featured everything about Lincoln, short of Sebastian Telfairs favorite breakfast cereal.
And while the much-ballyhooed battle between two of the citys top guards was basically a wash Telfair had 17 points after early foul trouble and Cardozo senior Cameron Tyler netted a quiet 21 the Judges had no answer for the Railsplitters supporting cast as top-seeded Lincoln cruised to an 88-61 victory at St. Johns University in the PSAL Class A semifinals Saturday.
The Railsplitters will attempt to be the first team since Taft in 1974-1975 to repeat as PSAL champs when they take on Brooklyn rival Benjamin Banneker in the city final at Madison Square Garden Sunday at 1 p.m. The second-seeded Warriors defeated Boys and Girls, 63-52, in the other boys semifinal.
In front of a crowd of more than 2,000, Lincoln (28-4) proved it could win despite an off day from its superstar. Usually known for his tenacious defense and rebounding, Jamal Dart scored 20 points and 6-foot-7, 215-pound sophomore Tone Pena was a monster in the paint, scoring 17 points, almost all off of putbacks, as Lincoln dominated the glass.
I felt I had to step up a little more. Since Sebastian was in foul trouble, we all had to step up, Pena said. [Cardozo is] real small. We have the skill to dominate a lot of people down low.
Added Dart: Now everyone knows if you double-team [Telfair], were all there to pick up the slack.
Even though Pena played his best offensive game of the year, Lincoln coach Dwayne Tiny Morton expected much more from the underclassman.
Hes not playing the game he could play; hes a triple-double player, Morton said. He played well but Im hard on him because he has a lot of skills, like Jamal Mashburn. He has to let it all out.
To hope to compete with Lincoln, Naclerio knew he needed a great game from Tyler, big shots from another perimeter player such as Nick Flagg and to be able to hang close with Lincoln early.
None of the above happened for the Judges.
While he thrilled the crowd with some explosive moves to the basket, Tyler, a 5-foot-11 senior, scored just six points off of jumpers and didnt make one three-pointer.
Flagg hit his first three-point attempt and scored five straight points en route to 17 for the game, but the junior guard also struggled with his long-range shot.
As for hoping to hang with explosive Lincoln early, Cardozo (22-9) fell behind 6-0 and was down 24-11 at the end of the first quarter and 44-27 at the half.
We wanted to get to the fourth quarter hopefully down [five to 10 points] and hopefully Sebastian is in foul trouble or hes having a D shooting game, said Naclerio, whose team trailed 62-47 at the end of the third quarter. Everything just went wrong.
Cardozo made a mini-run and got within 12, 48-36 on Mark Rios layup from Tyler with 5:10 left in the third quarter. But Dart answered with a three-point play on a putback while getting fouled 22 seconds later.
They played a lot of big games this year and this core hasnt played a lot of big games, Naclerio said. Theyre so talented, but they have a guy who will always bail them out. Were not the team we were. Were missing three of our top six players and two definite Division I players.
City game tryouts. The first tryout for the 33rd annual City Game for high school seniors who have yet to commit to a college and have either a 2.0 GPA or an 820 SAT score will take place Saturday at noon at John Jay College, at 58th Street and 10th Avenue. The City Game will take place April 22 at Hunter College.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2003 Community News Group
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