Billy Turnage walked off the Wadleigh High School court angry.
Sure, his Wings Academy boys basketball team knocked off Xaverian, 59-49, winning for the 16th time in 17 tries. But the fourth-year coach wasn’t happy with his team’s play or his reserves uninterested attitude on the bench in the fifth annual Rucker High School Invitational in Harlem.
Once Krystian Foriest’s name was mentioned, however, Turnage’s mood turned.
It was Foriest who shook off three quiet quarters to play the role of hero, scoring eight points in the final 3:55 of the fourth quarter. It was Foriest whose 3-point play quelled Xaverian’s 16-5 run and Foriest whose four free throws iced the victory.
“Krystian’s always been a player,” Turnage said. “For two years he played on one leg [because of a knee injury]. Now that he’s got both legs under him, he’s showing people what he can do.”
Foriest, Jordan Aaron and Deonte Houston each scored 10 points and James Blue added eight for Wings (21-5). Justin Exum paced Xaverian (11-11) with 18 points.
Foriest was instrumental in Wings’ Bronx borough championship game win over rival John F. Kennedy last Sunday, scoring 26 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking two shots. He was very quiet on Saturday – until the start of the fourth quarter when Wings principal Wayne Cox started pounding his chest and pointing at Foriest.
“When I saw that, I knew I had to step up and be more aggressive,” he said.
Xaverian was within three, at 47-44, when Foriest converted an offensive rebound with 3:55 remaining. He followed with a blocked shot of Abraham Akanmu, made four-of-five free throws and scored off a Blue drive.
Turnage was upset after the victory because the Wings nearly blew an 18-point halftime lead. He felt his players, on the court and on the bench, assumed victory. They weren’t vocal enough cheering one another on, slacked defensively, and didn’t share the ball.
“We played as poor of a game as we can play,” Turnage said. “I didn’t expect us to take this many steps backwards.”
Turnage was focusing on the little things – chemistry, tunrovers, missed free throws – after the win because Wings was one-and-done in the last two postseasons after not executing said little things.
“Those are the things that can beat you in the playoffs,” he said.
Wings, of course, prevailed when not at its best, a distinct positive this time of year.
“It shows from the beginning of the season until now, we’ve matured,” Foriest said.
Like Turnage, Xaverian coach Jack Alesi wasn’t pleased postgame. He felt his team was disinterested and lacked intensity in the first half. The Clippers’ 12-0 run to start the second half, and 12-5 burst to start the fourth quarter, wasn’t nearly enough. They open the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan playoffs Monday against Archbishop Molloy at St. Francis Prep.
“That was one of those cosmetic comebacks that really means nothing,” Alesi said. “The comeback is secondary to what got us in the hole. Mentally right now, we’ve hit the wall and we got a day to get out of this funk.”