Hillcrest rallies to defeat Francis Lewis, 64-60

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Trailing 54-37 heading into the fourth quarter of a game for the final playoff berth in Queens II-A, the Hillcrest boys’ basketball team had host Francis Lewis right where they wanted.

For a third straight game, Hillcrest rallied from a double-digit deficit as the Hawks outscored the Patriots 27-6 in the final quarter for a 64-60 win Friday afternoon.

The victory clinched the fourth and final playoff berth in Queens II-A and capped a remarkable week for Craig Fagen’s team, which rallied from 17 points down to defeat powerhouse Cardozo Jan. 22 before the come-from-behind win at Francis Lewis.

“We felt that after that win, we can beat anyone,” senior Lonnell Jones said of the Cardozo upset. “We’re all crunch time players. We all have something special.”

Jones showcased his specialty — clutch long-range shooting — at the start of the fourth quarter, burying back-to-back threes from the top of the key that ignited a 17-1 rally to bring Hillcrest (7-7 Queens II-A) within one, 55-54 with 2:30 left.

Francis Lewis (6-8 Queens II-A) held onto the lead until the final minute when the Patriots wilted under Hillcrest’s full-court press. The Patriots turned the ball over three consecutive possessions in a span of 22 seconds.

“We went full court with a man-to-man press and they got shaken,” Fagen said of Francis Lewis. “It just snowballed for us. They couldn’t inbound and they couldn’t pass.”

“We have three different break presses and the system just broke down,” said Francis Lewis coach Randy James. “Other schools say ‘give the ball to this player to get out of trouble,’ but we don’t have those athletes.”

Hillcrest took its first lead of the second half, 58-57, on a pair of free throws by Joemell Khan with 29 seconds remaining.

Nick Jones, who scored a game-high 24 points, including 11-for-13 from the line, buried another two free throws with 22 seconds left, and Amrinder Singh followed suit four seconds later to give the Hawks a 62-57 lead with 18 seconds left.

Jones, who also had 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists, then committed a cardinal sin by fouling Matias Manzano (14 points) on a three-point attempt.

After Manzano sank all three shots, Lonnell Jones was fouled immediately and made one of two free throws, giving Francis Lewis a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds with a three-pointer.

But Manzano’s shot from the right wing with four seconds left missed everything, and Jones capped an amazing Hillcrest comeback with another free throw with one second left.

According to Fagen, Hillcrest needed every last point of that comeback because of how poorly it played in the opening three quarters.

“We were lifeless. I was worried about [a letdown after the Cardozo win], and we talked about it at practice and before the game,” he said. “But we didn’t attack this team.”

Hillcrest’s self-proclaimed “Fantastic Four” lived up to their billing, as Nick Jones, Lonnell Jones (5 assists), Singh (10 rebounds) and Khan combined for 56 of the Hawks’ 64 points.

“As long as we’re in the playoffs, we have a chance,” Nick Jones said. “If we can beat Cardozo, we’re ready for any team.”

“We’re not just going to the playoffs,” Malcolm Ray added. “We’re going to the [PSAL championship game at the] Garden.”

Cardozo 87, North Bergen (N.J.) 65. Cameron Tyler had 27 points and 7 assists, Vic Morris added 20 points and Dwayne Johnson had 12 points for Cardozo (19-5) at the Hawkins Memorial Game at Columbia University Sunday.

Newtown 51, Pennride (Pa.) 50. Jeremy Diaz, who came off the bench to score 7 points and grab 6 rebounds, knocked down a jumper with eight seconds left in overtime to clinch the game for Newtown in the New York-Philly Classic. Tyshawn Bierria led Newtown (15-8) with 14 points, including a driving layup with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and 6 rebounds.

Cardozo 80, South Shore 57. Tyler (28 points) and Morris (11 points, 6 assists) again led the Judges in the Utopia/Play Hard Martin Luther King Classic at Springfield Gardens Saturday.

Beach Channel 66, Far Rockaway 59. Rahshon Clark scored 33 points, and Victor Alvarez added 9 points and 7 assists for Beach Channel (18-2, 17-1 Queens III-A), which clinched the division crown. Far Rockaway (15-3 Queens III-A) was led by Richard Forbes, who scored a game-high 35 points.

Cardozo 99, Bayside 79. Tyler scored 32 points and Skyler Khaleel added 14 points, 13 rebounds and 9 blocks for the Judges, who clinched the Queens II-A title. Ryan Leak led Bayside (10-4 Queens II-A) with 30 points.

Jamaica 64, John Bowne 61. Desmond Frazier led Jamaica (13-12, 11-3 Queens II-A) with 22 points and 16 boards.

Newtown 78, Bryant 62. Jeremy Diaz had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals for second-place Newtown (14-8, 10-4 Queens I-A).

Campus Magnet 70, Springfield Gardens 62. Rondu Stevens had 27 points for Campus Magnet (9-14, 6-12 Queens III-A).

Flushing 84, Franklin K. Lane 73. Corey Jones had 28 points for Flushing (11-13, 6-8 Queens I-A).

Long Island City 55, Forest Hills 51. Michael Laboy scored 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, for LIC (14-9, 9-5 Queens A-I).

Robert F. Wagner 79, Richmond Hill 72. Jaysen Murphy scored 35 points for Wagner (17-6, 14-3 Queens B) in the overtime win while Kenny Smith netted 30 for Richmond Hill.

American Studies 76, Queens Vocational 65. Amseshem Foluke had 24 points and 24 rebounds for American Studies (17-4, 15-3 Queens B), which clinched the Queens B title.

Newcomers 71, Renaissance 67. Luis Matos had 11 points and 20 boards for Newcomers (6-17, 6-12 Queens B).

Edison 70, Townsend Harris 67. Kareem Bertrand scored 24 points and grabbed 9 rebounds for Edison (8-15, 4-10 Queens II-A) in the overtime win.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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