There were no guarantees in the playoffs for Medgar Evers. Starting guards Ashley Castle and Camera Miley were off the team as late as last month. Miley’s mother held her out for academic purposes. Castle was suspended by the school’s principal for disciplinary reasons and missed the Cougars’ first postseason contest.
“The first playoff game, I was mad – I wanted to play,” said Castle, who wasn’t even allowed in the gym that day. “It could have been my fault that we lost.”
Top-seed Medgar Evers won that day, though, and has won ever since. With Castle and Miley coming off the bench, the Cougars routed No. 3 Wings Academy, 54-31, in the PSAL Class A girls basketball championship game at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Saturday. Castle, who returned for the quarterfinals, had eight of her 11 points in the first half as Medgar Evers (23-2) pulled away.
“I told her that she was either going to win it or lose it for us,” Cougars coach Barney Davis said.
The absences of Castle and Miley for big chunks of the season only helped Medgar Evers, Davis said. It gave Nairobi Colon and Keyanna Jean Louis valuable playing time in meaningful games.
“We got in trouble and it got the bench more in the game,” Castle said. “They’re not scared anymore.”
The Cougars’ defense was downright scary Saturday, March 20. Davis joked that this is the best offensive team he’s had and the worst defensive one, but Medgar Evers really came to play against Wings. The Cougars were in a matchup zone and went man-to-man on Lady Wings star guard Latasia Ward.
“Our heads got too big and we got too ahead of ourselves,” Ward said.
Still, Wings (25-2) had an incredible season, making it to the finals for the first time. The only other team coach Juan Gonzalez’s team lost to was Manhattan Center, which advanced to the PSAL Class AA semifinals.
“My team did a good job,” Ward said. “We made it so far. … I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Star senior guard Jasmin Robinson had 15 points and freshman Shakila Small had eight points for the Cougars. Aquillin Hayes, Latasia Ward and Monique Samuel each had six for Wings, which was the hottest team coming into the game. Davis even said Medgar Evers was the underdog, perhaps using a little reverse psychology.
“Wings thought they were the No. 1 team,” Robinson said. “We showed them how a No. 1 team plays.”
Davis knows all about coaching the No. 1 team. He guided Paul Robeson to the PSAL city championship over John Jay in 1991, led by current Bedford Academy coach Kendra Nelson. He said this year’s victory was just as satisfying. There was just only one difference for Davis, who is known for his casual attire.
“The other one was at Madison Square Garden,” he said, “so I had to wear a jacket.”
Medgar Evers will meet the state public school ‘A’ representative in the New York State Federation Class A semifinals Friday at Glens Falls Civic Center. Davis already said that he’s going to start five seniors in that game and the trip is for fun more than anything. The real accolade has already been achieved.
Not that it should have come as any surprise with Castle and Miley back in the lineup.
“Well,” Davis said, “we were the best team.”