Boys & Girls made a concerted effort to get off to a fast start. The Kangaroos energy was high and they implemented full-court pressure to keep it that way after recent slow starts.
“Today, we threw the first punch,” junior guard Mike Taylor said of The High’s PSAL Class AA quarterfinal against No. 7 Wadleigh.
And the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, too.
Second-seeded Boys & Girls raced out to an eye-popping 37-9 lead and cruised to the semifinals, where it met No. 3 Wings Academy Wednesday night, with a 78-54 throttling of the Tigers.
“The games was probably won very early,” coach Ruth Lovelace said.
Taylor continued to thrive this postseason, scoring a team-high 22 points to lead three other teammates in double figures. Leroy Isler added 17 points and 13 rebounds, Jeffland Neverson had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Leroy (Truck) Fludd had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Antione Slaughter chipped in seven points and nine assists.
Wadleigh (21-7) made a late run in the first half, getting to within 14, but never threatened again. Boston University-bound forward Malik Thomas managed just eight points and Karim Rowson had only seven. This, after the two combined for 40 points and 23 rebounds in a second round win over Robeson. Basil Harley led the Tigers with 12 points.
“[Boys & Girls is] good, but that had to do with heart, and that’s one muscle you can’t go to the gym for,” Wadleigh coach Mike Crump said. “After we beat Robeson, they just thought they would come in and win today. We didn’t come to play.”
After a solid, if unspectacular, regular season, Taylor has come alive, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds in the playoffs. While the Kangaroos (26-5) were shorthanded at times during the regular season, Taylor struggled somewhat with his shot.
Lovelace attributed that to him facing constant double- and triple-teams, and working on other aspects of his burgeoning game, such as rebounding, ball-handling and defending. Now that Fludd and forward Anthony Hemingway are back, and Isler and Neverson have become constant scoring threats, Taylor has seen less attention.
“Mike is playing a little bit more relaxed,” Lovelace said. “Other guys are playing well, so its taking pressure off him.”
Isler had a different take.
“It’s playoff time – that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Taylor said he has spent more time working on his jump shot in recent weeks, shooting before and after practice. He hit his first two 3-pointers on Sunday and has buried 15 in five playoff games, just five less than in 10 league games.
“I’m feel good about myself,” he said.
So are the Kangaroos. They are in the semifinals for the fourth straight season, and this time, Boys & Girls doesn’t have arch nemesis Lincoln to worry about. Third-seeded Wings Academy eliminated the No. 6 Railsplitters, 78-59, on Sunday, ending their four-year city title run.
“I would’ve loved to be the one to eliminate them but they got beat [already],” Taylor said. “We got to play Wings. Their guard play is great, but our guard play is better.”