The High is on the rise

It’s been six years, but Boys & Girls is back on top of Brooklyn all by itself.

The Kangaroos survived a late scare by bitter rival Lincoln, but prevailed, 71-65, in overtime in Bed Stuy last Tuesday night. Boys & Girls’ seventh straight win in league play has them it alone atop Brooklyn AA, the top division in the PSAL, with just one game left, at home against three-win South Shore. The Kangaroos haven’t won their division outright since 2004.

“It’s our division, it’s our city now,” senior guard Mike Taylor confidently said. “We’re going all the way this time.”

Said fellow senior Leroy Isler: “It gives us bragging rights. We’re No. 1.”

Isler led Boys & Girls with 17 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, Taylor had 15 points, Antoine Slaughter followed with 14 points and nine assists and Leroy Fludd, in his 2009-10 debut, added nine points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

“In overtime, they showed me a little bit about their character,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said.

The Kangaroos (19-5, 11-2 Brooklyn AA) played their best basketball of the evening in the extra session, during which they outscored the Railsplitters (14-7, 10-3), 17-11. Boys & Girls made 10-of-11 free throws and forced three turnovers. Isler had five points in the extra session and senior Jerry White drew the fifth and final foul on Lincoln forward Kamari Murphy, who was held to 15 points.

“I told them they have to dig in deep within themselves,” Lovelace said. “I said ‘I’m really upset. The only way I’m gonna get over this is if we win.’”

Isler made sure she was smiling afterward. One of the top unsigned seniors in the city, he led the Kangaroos at both ends of the floor. He did a fine job defensively on Murphy, Lincoln’s 6-foot-8 forward, despite a sizeable height disadvantage, and played his best in overtime, with the go-ahead 3-point play.

“That’s what Leroy’s been doing all year long,” Lovelace said. “He’s been the glue. We just ask him to do so much – score inside, defend bigger players. You can’t say enough about the kid.”

Boys & Girls controlled play much of the way. Led by Taylor’s 10 second-quarter points, it had a 30-20 advantage at halftime and was up by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter. Lincoln, however, came storming back, closing regulation on a 19-6 run. Shaquille Stokes (21 points) forced the extra session by drilling a heavily contested 3-pointer from the left wing with three seconds left.

“I thought the momentum was going to change,” Stokes said. “But The High played harder than us. They wanted it more today.”

It was a frustrating performance all around for Lincoln, save for the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Murphy and 7-foot center Jordan Dickerson missed at least a dozen point-blank attempts. Stokes was held to three points for three-plus quarter.

Instead of taking a stranglehold on the division, the Railsplitters could now fall as far back as third, depending on Thursday’s home meeting with Thomas Jefferson.

Boys & Girls, meanwhile, has the inside track on the top seed in the citywide playoffs, given it can win the Brooklyn borough title next week. For the first time this year, the Kangaroos were whole. Lovelace went nine deep, starting Fludd and bringing 6-foot-4 forward Anthony Hemingway off the bench.

The extended bench paid off in the extra session, when The High played its best basketball. It guarded well, shared the ball and attacked the basket. The Kangaroos haven’t necessarily faired well against the city’s best, losing tight games to Lincoln, Jefferson, Christ the King, Cardozo and Rice. They came through, however, when it mattered most.

“I got to give credit to our kids,” Lovelace said. “They just have given us what we asked. All the things we’ve been preaching all year, it all came together at once.”