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Of the four teams in last week’s Smartball Classic semifinals, three were penciled in at the outset of the two-week, single-elimination tournament. Christ the King and defending state Federation Class AA champion Boys & Girls are established New York City powers, while South Shore has a roster with as much talent as any in the five boroughs.
Bayside was the one team that didn’t seem to fit. The Commodores, however, were arguably the most impressive, coasting to a 60-53 basketball win over Boys High at the Kennedy Center in Harlem to reach last Thursday’s final against South Shore.
The accomplishment shouldn’t be minimized — the Harlem-based tournament features a host of the city’s top teams, from the three semifinalists to defending CHSAA city champion St. Raymond and perennial PSAL contenders John F. Kennedy and Wadleigh.
Boys & Girls, in fact, won the crown the last two years, riding that momentum into memorable seasons.
“It says a lot for us, a lot for our program,” Bayside assistant Coach Tim Briscoe said. “This year we’re gonna make a lot of noise.”
Senior-laden and loaded with a number of versatile guards, Bayside raced out to leads of 13-5, 36-20 and 51-35 and never looked back. Tyler Whitehead led Bayside with 18 points and six rebounds, Jamal Roseburgh had 12 points and six rebounds and Brandon King chipped in 10 points.
Much of this group was together last year when Bayside shared the Queens AA regular season crown with Cardozo after beating the rival Judges for the first time in over a decade. There are differences, however, most notably the presence of Whitehead, the impressive 6-foot-3 guard from Flushing who has yet to play varsity basketball because of a myriad of academic issues.
“He can play with the best of them,” Briscoe said, “as long as he’s focused and playing to his strengths.”
Whitehead was at Holy Cross as a freshman and Bayside as a sophomore, but never got on the court. Last year, the 18-year-old standout attended prep school Kestrel Heights (N.C.), but came back to Bayside and has dedicated himself to getting eligible by taking summer courses.
“That’s one thing I’m focused on first, my grades,” he said. “It’s my senior year, the most important year for me.”
Roseburgh, an active 6-foot-7 forward with a nice touch, has improved to present Bayside with the inside presence it sorely needs and Austin Williams, arguably the team’s best player, just got back on the court after microscopic knee surgery.
Bayside is the polar opposite of Boys & Girls as it isn’t established citywide and is full of veterans while the Kangaroos are depending on youngsters. With rising senior star Wesley Myers shelved with a knee injury, the onus was on rising sophomores Jamie Killings and Marvin Prochet. The two combined for 25 points, 15 from Killings, and rallied The High from an 18-point deficit to within seven in the fourth quarter, but King hit a clutch late three-pointer to seal the win.
“We had to play tough and we had to play with a lot of heart,” Whitehead said. “That’s a tough Brooklyn team. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
With much confidence Whitehead talked about challenging Brooklyn’s best when the winter comes. Usually, Bayside is preoccupied with challenging Cardozo as the best team in Queens, but this group doesn’t want to sell itself short.
“It shows,” Whitehead said, “we can go far.”
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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