Since entering Bedford Academy four years ago, Brent Jones and Anthony Mason Jr. have often talked about winning a championship.
It was only talk, but now it’s a reality.
The two seniors combined to score 60 points, leading No. 4 Bedford Academy to a 76-63 victory over sixth-seeded South Bronx in the PSAL Class A final at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Saturday, March 20.
“When the lights came on, we were both making shots,” Jones said after the Panthers won the school’s first title of any kind. “I waited four years for this. I feel so satisfied.”
Said Mason: “It’s like a dream come true. I feel like a champion.”
Jones, a 5-foot-11 guard, had 34 points, made 12-of-18 shots from the field, and had seven steals, garnering MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 Mason followed with 26 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
“Brent and Mason are the cornerstones of our team and they proved it tonight,” first-year coach Robert Phelps said. “They’ve been our backbone the whole time.”
Jones was phenomenal from the start, blistering South Bronx (27-4) with a bevy of 3-pointers, medium-range jump shots and drives to the basket. He had 16 points at halftime and erupted for 10 points in a 17-6 run to start the third quarter, giving the Panthers a 56-37 lead.
“Points, assists, steals – he did everything,” Mason said.
Jones clearly won the debate of the better point guard. South Bronx standout Dashawn Joyner scored 24 points, but many of those came after the result had been decided. He appeared to be worn down as the game went on as Phelps used three defenders – Jones, Sean Snagg and Tavonte Reid – to guard him and even threw double teams at him as he crossed half-court.
“We put pressure on him,” guard Malik Brown said. “We all did it as a team.”
South Bronx coach Doug Porter said Joyner was clearly superior after the Phoenix’ semifinal victory. Phelps didn’t respond during the week and he didn’t need to brag after the victory, either.
“I’ll let the game speak for itself,” he said. “He’s one of the top guards in the city, I’ll tell you that. … He’s definitely a Division I scholarship player.”
The high-scoring Phoenix didn’t have an answer for the bigger Panthers (24-5) at either end of the floor. They were outrebounded 46-35, had nine shots blocks, committed 22 turnovers and made just 12-of-26 free throws.
“We have to play defense, and I said if we held the score in the 60s and 70s, we’ll win, and they only scored 63 points,” Phelps said.
While Jones and Mason scored a majority of Bedford Academy’s points, other stepped up. Reid and Snagg helped Jones limit Joyner. Massamba Samb blocked six shots and added four points and eight rebounds.
The only thing the Panthers did wrong came after the final whistle, when they dumped a bucket of Gatorade on Phelps, spilling ice water all over the court. It was a watershed moment for Phelps the coach. The all-time leading scorer at Nazareth, a standout at Providence College who enjoyed a nine-year career overseas in Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan, he resisted coaching for a while, but took the job this fall after constant badgering from school administrators and students.
“Now I am [happy] because I remember the feeling when I was a player,” he said.
Now Bedford Academy, a school known for its academics, is headed for Glens Falls, site of the New York State Federation tournament. Phelps has been there twice, winning a pair of Federation crowns.
“Now we will be known for winning a championship and putting out good students,” Phelps said. “This means a lot. I’m glad these guys can experience this.”