When Robert Phelps took over the boys basketball program at Bedford Academy this fall, Brent Jones began looking into his past achievements.
The senior guard was floored when he learned Phelps led the city in scoring at Nazareth (he is 11th all time in scoring in New York State history with 2,477 points) and won two state championships, earned a scholarship to Providence College, helping the Friars win the Big East Tournament in 1994, and enjoyed a nine-year career overseas in Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan.
“I wanted to be where he’s [been to],” said Jones, a 5-foot-11 senior.
He’s one win away from following Phelps to Glens Falls.
Jones scored 24 points and dished out nine assists, leading No. 4 Bedford Academy past No. 9 Banneker, 62-44, in a PSAL Class A semifinal at Lehman College in The Bronx Sunday, March 14. The Brooklyn A East-champion Panthers face No. 6 South Bronx next Saturday at St. Francis College in the final.
Anthony Mason Jr. added 16 points and 10 rebounds, Malik Brown had 12, and Bedford (23-5) played what Phelps described its most complete defensive game of the year, holding Banneker (14-4) without a point for the first 7:40 of the opening quarter and to just one field goal and 12 points in the first half.
“We slowed them down and they didn’t want to play slow. They wanted to play fast,” Phelps said. “We emphasize defense. If you don’t play defense, you will come out.”
Jones made sure the lead stood up, scoring 18 points after halftime. He also handled the Warriors’ press with aplomb and made sure his teammates kept their composure in difficult moments.
Jones credited Phelps for that. The first-year coach made a point of telling Jones he had to have their respect, but also be able to soothe their nerves by talking to them in a positive way. Discipline, control and leadership were three points he instilled in his pupil.
“Like a sponge, I take it and use what he says,” said Jones, who has received Division I interest from St. Francis College and Central Connecticut State.
Phelps was hesitant to take over at Bedford, where he is a dean, for several years. After last year’s coach, Deron Rippey, left, he finally relented. He liked to be in control as a player, so Phelps wasn’t sure how he would handle guiding youngsters. He immediately forged a bond with Jones.
“He has the same mentality I have: knock you out,” the coach joked. “With Brent out there, I feel comfortable.”
So do the Panthers, particularly on Sunday.
“Brent stepped up as he always does,” Mason said. “Beautiful.”
Mason and Jones have come a long way together, from the only two freshmen on the varsity four years ago, to last year’s heartbreaking semifinal defeat to Westinghouse, to leading the East New York, Brooklyn school to its first berth in the final.
“It feels wonderful,” Mason said. “We need to get a championship before we leave.”