This one hurt.
A scrappy, 10th-seeded William E. Grady boys basketball team couldn’t quite pull off an upset of No. 3 Walton in the Public Schools Athletic League “A” semifinals at Baruch College March 15, suffering a frustrating 59–54 loss that defied the Falcons’ early-season expectations.
“We had a great year. This team has been together for two years and every time we laced them up, these guys competed for me,” said Grady coach Karl Sanders. “We learned a lot about ourselves this year.”
The Falcons started slowly — trailing 15–8 after the first eight minutes — but a handful of adjustments between the first and second quarters turned the tide.
The Grady squad started hitting its jump shots, pushing the ball into the lane, controlling the tempo and grabbing a handful of key offensive rebounds.
By halftime, the Falcons had cut the Wildcats’ lead to one and built some much-needed confidence as they headed into the locker room.
“We had to rely on what got us here,” Sanders said. “And that was our man-to-man defense, closing out on shooters and rebounding.”
Grady continued to crank up their defense in the second half, forcing the Wildcats to settle for quick, contested shots. Senior Antonio Smallshansell led the charge for Grady, weaving his way through Walton defenders enroute to notching a team-high 19 points.
The Falcons tied up the game twice in the third quarter, but Walton’s Arturo Sealy and Derek Smith combined to go on a six-point run and the Wildcats took a two-point lead into the fourth.
Grady’s Jordan Matos made it a 51–51 game with 3:04 left on the clock, but that was as close as the squad would get. On the ensuing possession, Sealy gave Walton a lead it would never relinquish as the Falcons couldn’t hit its shots down the stretch.
“They made shots and we didn’t,” Sanders said. “That’s what the game comes down to. The X’s and O’s kind of go out the window and you have to have players who are going to step up and make plays. My guys were trying to, but they didn’t make the plays.”
It’s a heartbreaking ending for the Falcons, but the future is still bright, as Grady returns a good chunk of its starting lineup next year and — after reaching the semis this season — has sets its sights on a title run next winter.
“[Saying goodbye is] very hard, one of the hardest things you have to do,” Sanders said. “I’ve got two seniors that are graduating, but, for the most part, I’ve got a lot of juniors and sophomores coming back, so we’re going to stay together.”