There was a fleeting moment last Sunday evening when Ruth Lovelace thought back to Feb. 17, 2007, the day Darwin (Buddha) Ellis beat Boys & Girls at the buzzer with a last-second 3-pointer.
It was in the far left corner at St. Francis College, capping an epic Lincoln victory in the Brooklyn borough final.
The Kangaroos were back at St. Francis College, back in the borough final for the first time since Ellis made that shot, again clinging to a late lead. That’s when Thomas Jefferson guard Dave Coley took a 3-pointer from the other corner, same side of the floor, clock again winding down.
“Anytime a chance goes up, there’s a chance it will go in,” Lovelace said.
This time, the shot didn’t fall, rolling around the rim and out. Boys & Girls point guard Antioine Slaughter retrieved the carom and The High would soon have its first borough crown, surviving, 60-57, over rival Jefferson.
“It means a lot to our coach, it means a lot to me, it means a lot to everybody,” said Slaughter, who scored all nine of his points in the frantic fourth quarter. “It shows everybody we’re No. 1.”
Mike Taylor led Boys & Girls (23-5) with 14 points, Leroy Isler added 12 and Jeffland Neverson had 11. Eric Turpin Jr. had 12 points for Jefferson (19-9) and Coley and Davontay Grace each tallied 11.
The Kangaroos certainly celebrated like they had won a championship. They mobbed one another at center court. Moment later, they created a Soul Train-like circle, one player dancing at a time before the 5-foot-7 Slaughter hopped over his taller teammates into the middle. Soon, there would be “Boys High” chants. When the players finally dressed and left St. Francis College, they were greeted by an enormous roar from friends and family.
“We made history,” Neverson said.
It didn’t come without plenty of nervous moments. The rubber match between the Brooklyn AA foes was a slugfest, littered with turnovers, missed free throws and broken plays. In one haywire sequence, each team committed two turnovers as close to everyone on the court dove on the floor for a loose ball.
“Jeff is the type of team to play hard, play defense,” Taylor said. “They were not gonna lay down for us. We had to play hard right back.”
That led to plenty of foul trouble for Boys & Girls. Taylor and forwards Isler and Leroy (Truck) Fludd all saw limited playing time because of such woes. In their place, Anthony Hemingway came up with several clutch plays, be it offensive rebounds, steals or a few well-timed baskets. Neverson took up the challenge of guarding Coley and held the Stony Brook-bound guard to 11 points, well below his season average.
“We pulled it out with our defense, that’s our No. 1 thing at Boys & Girls,” said Taylor, the highly-recruited junior. “That’s what made us win today.”
The first half was split evenly between runs for the respective teams. After a slow star, Boys & Girls scored 19 of 21 points but Jefferson answered with a 15-6 surge to get within two by halftime. The Orange Wave went up three early in the third quarter on a Corwin Austin layup, but the two teams were knotted at 39 early in the fourth.
The Kangaroos proceeded to take charge, building a six-point lead. Taylor hit two free throws, Fludd finished inside, Slaughter knocked down a baby jumper and Taylor drilled a 3-pointer in transition with 2:18 to go.
Jefferson didn’t die. Back-to-back 3-point plays from Hall and Grace cut the deficit to two before Boys & Girls turnovers the ball over. Coley had a good look, from that right corner, but the shot rimmed out.
“Senior, player as good as Dave, I couldn’t ask for much more,” Pollard said.
That didn’t lighten the blow for Jefferson’s third straight Brooklyn borough final loss, which may have cost the Orange Wave the top seed in the upcoming city playoffs.
“I feel like the Buffalo Bills,” the coach said. “I’m tired of being a bridesmaid.”