Telecommunications appeared to have already secured a city title after grabbing a 15-point advantage after the first quarter — but holding the lead ended up being tougher that gaining it.
With its leading scorer fouled out in the closing minutes, the Yellow Jackets’ saw its lead shrink to three, but the team’s was able hold off Frederick Douglass Academy 54–51 in the Public School Athletic League Class A boys’ basketball title game at St. Francis College on March 13. Tele refused to lose.
“We didn’t come here for no reason,” guard Devin Ballour said.
The Lions slowly battled back by starting the second quarter on a 7–0 run led by Steven Cherry, who finished with a team-high 12 points.
But Tele’s defensive pressure, led by Ballour, set the tone for the game and kept the Yellow Jackets ahead 31–21 lead the half. The the fouls began to pile up.
Tele’s Thomas Farrell led the team with 15 points, securing the game’s Most Valuable Player award. However, the junior would eventually foul out with 2:42 left, moments after Ballour (10 points) fouled out — putting the team in a dangerous place.
With a resurgent Lions team fighting back and Tele not playing as well on the defensive end, its lead shrank with time expiring.
“Every time we would score a basket we wouldn’t even be paying attention,” Ballour said. “They would just run up the court and draw the foul or lay it up.”
St. Francis College began to rumble, as the packed house seemed to rally behind the Lions. A 13-point lead shrank with every stop and the place got louder and louder. Frederick Douglass (21–1) won the fourth quarter 16-6, but fell three points short. Clutch free throws from senior guard John Brown would seal the game for Tele (21–2) with 13.1 seconds left. Brown finished with 11 points and Matthew Smiley added 10 of his own. The veteran Yellow Jackets – who have no underclassmen on the roster – found a way to hang on.
“Our experience down the stretch helped.” said Tele coach Chris Weil.
Tele won the rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, despite shooting 14-for-31 from the free-throw line. The team advances to face Elmont in the state Federation semifinals March 18 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
The Yellow Jackets, whose baseball team win the city title in 2013, now have a hoops crown to call their own.
“[The championship] is big for the program and it’s big for the school,” Weil said. “We have a very good baseball team but we’ve always been in the mix in basketball. I knew eventually we would get something and we got it today; that’s all that counts.”