Every improbable playoff run comes to end, some in celebration, others disappointment. The no. 19-seed Wingate boys basketball team faced the later — one win short of a title.
Its quest for a Public School Athletic League Class B championship concluded with a 63–58 defeat to top-seeded Fannie Lou Hamer in the final on Sunday afternoon at St. Francis College. The Panthers used an 11–2 fourth-quarter run to put the game away. Fannie Lou Hamer let Wingate get close, but kept answering each charge.
“It seems like that was a pattern at times, that every time we make a great run, we let down a little bit,” Wingate coach Stephen Cavalli said.
Momentum swung in Fannie Lou’s direction after Michael Castillo, who dropped in 15 points, converted on a 3-point play at the start of the fourth quarter to spark the decisive run. Isiah Thomas tallied a game-high 19 points for the Panthers (28–3).
Cavalli was not happy with his team’s effort throughout the game. He suggested nerves might have affected his squad.
“I think we came out a little hesitant,” the coach said. “I know we did not play the way we could have played.”
Wingate senior Timothy Benn scored 18 points, including eight points in the fourth quarter as he tried to lead his team back. The Generals (17–10) got as close as five with 4:50 left in the third after two Timothy Benn free throws, but could never get closer than that after Castillo’s 3-point play to start the fourth.
Benn scored six points in the final 2:00, including a trey with 23.4 seconds left to make it 60–53 — but it was too little too late. Wingate tried fouling late but it didn’t work. Fannie Lou Hamer hit 8 of 10 free throws to close out the win.
Wingate senior Jean Joseph played what Cavalli described as his worst game all season. He scored just 11 points in the game, including just two in the second half, after leading his team in scoring throughout the playoffs.
Joseph played in only the final four games of the season for Wingate after being academically ineligible early in the year. His return sparked the Generals’ streak in the title race, which ended quietly on Sunday afternoon.
“We found ourselves, we got a nice run,” Cavalli said. “I think we can play with that team on any other day. We just didn’t have our ‘A’ game tonight.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk
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