The weather was hot and muggy, the blacktop court tiny, and much of the crowd was businessmen and women just out of work. Not even a foreign court and less-than-ideal weather conditions could take away from a Lincoln-Boys & Girls showdown.
The two archrivals — well Lincoln went by the name Starrett City, but it was mostly Railsplitters — met in downtown Manhattan and nevertheless put on a show, battling to the final moments like it was March at Madison Square Garden. The defending city champion Kangaroos pulled out the victory, rallying for a 72-70 win.
“Typical Lincoln-Boys High game,” said Kangaroos coach Ruth Lovelace, who watched from the sideline as assistant Elmer Anderson handled the coaching duties. “It’s good for the kids. Look at how many people were wrapped around the fence.”
Mike Taylor had 18 points to lead Boys & Girls, Leroy (Truck) Fludd and Antione Slaughter added 15 apiece and Will Benjamin had 14. Shaquille Stokes scored a game-high 23 points for Starrett City and Kamari Murphy followed with 17.
Clearly, it wasn’t a typical summer-league game. Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton was on his team’s bench and ripped the referees at one point after not getting an offensive foul call go his way. There were four media members, two photographers, a video crew, and talent evaluator Tom Konchalski all on hand. Boys & Girls resorted to a full-court press after falling behind by 13 in the third quarter.
Taylor, the Kangaroos’ star guard, received a text message from Anderson Thursday night that they had a game at West 4th Street on Friday against Starrett City. No big deal, he thought, until he saw Lincoln in parentheses.
“Oh, yeah,” he said to himself. “They always want to see what we got coming back, we always want to see what they got.”
Lincoln eliminated Boys & Girls from the playoffs in 2007, 2008, and 2009, but the Kangaroos won their first city title since 1979 in March while the post-Lance Stephenson Railsplitters lost in the quarterfinals to Wings Academy. When The High was in the semifinals, Lincoln was there, taunting them about still being over three decades without a title.
“We shoed them,” Taylor said.
If last Friday is any indication, the two regular-season matchups will be can’t-miss.
While neither side had its full complement of players, most of the standouts — Stokes and Murphy for Lincoln, Taylor, Slaughter, and Fludd for Boys & Girls — were on hand. The game was intense, the two teams trading leads in the final stanza, going hard to the basket, picking up full-court. The Kangaroos had the final run, reeling off the games’ final eight points.
Taylor sank the afternoon’s biggest shot, a game tying 3-pointer from the left corner to even the score at 70. After a pair of empty possession for both sides, Fludd was fouled and sank the game-winning free throws with under 10 seconds left. Kevin Gonzalez missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I wanted to win, I want to win every game,” Morton said. “It was almost like a game in March, not too far from the Garden. It was a good chance to see certain guys.”
As for Boys & Girls, the victory was encouraging considering it was shorthanded, minus starting small forward Jeffland Neverson, talented rising sophomore Teyvon Myers, and Hillcrest transfer Malik Nichols.
“Imagine if we had our whole team?” Slaughter, the speedy point guard, said, grinning. “I’m glad we beat them. It means a lot to us.”