As Brooklyn Tech senior forward Kherel Silcott stood at the free throw line late in a PSAL Class A quarterfinal matchup with Martin Luther King Jr., the Brooklyn Tech student section started its final cheer of the afternoon.
“Final Four” reverberated throughout Nat Holman Gymnasium on the campus of City College.
The 18th-seeded Engineers’ Cinderella run had continued with a 51-39 victory over No. 7 MLK, the team’s first trip to the semifinals since 1993, when it fell to Stephon Marbury and Lincoln.
The “Final Four” chant was one of the many sounds that could be heard on March 7 at CCNY. Brooklyn Tech is developing a reputation for having one of the most rowdy and raucous crowds in the PSAL, and the traveling band of Engineers supporters grows after every upset.
“You can feel the energy,” coach Stephen Gigliello. “I feel like I have six or seven men on the court.”
They were needed.
After starting the game with five straight points from senior Gabriell Quintin, King answered with a steady 20-6 run. With Silcott and Quintin out of the game because of foul trouble, the Knights were able to built a nine-point lead. Gigliello, though, was happy to have kept his close. He credited his reserves for that.
“We had to stretch out the bench a little bit more than I expected, but we knew that if we kept it close we would be able to pull it out,” he said. “I knew that if we kept on going inside, those shots would start dropping for us eventually.”
Gigliello proved to be right. Much like Tech’s previous upset, of No. 2 Francis Lewis last Wednesday, March 3, Silcott’s second-half return flipped the game in Brooklyn Tech’s favor. The 6-foot-6 swingman, who said he has already committed to NJIT, scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half. His rebounding — he had 15 boards — and shot-blocking were also keys in the Engineers’ comeback.
“He’s a great player,” Gigliello said. “But we got more weapons than just him.”
One of those weapons is Carlos Mesa. The senior came off the bench to score 10 points. He was the only other Engineer in double figures.
The Knights (18-4), meanwhile, were paced by Adolphe Jean-Baptiste and his 12 points. His teammates, however, were shutdown by Brooklyn Tech (13-5).
The Engineers have clearly embraced their role as the Cinderella of the Class A playoffs, but they have proven to not be the average underdog.
“We don’t think we’re underdogs. We just take it one game at a time,” Gigliello said. “No matter what, you still have to show up and play. And we have to play Brooklyn Tech basketball. We played teams like Brooklyn Collegiate and Bedford Academy in the league that prepared us for this game and this tournament.”