Pictured: Maurice Harkless (Forest Hills)
We promised changes last week in this space and boy are there some. As the PSAL Class AA and A playoff brackets are down to the down final four, there were many surprises, several upsets and other near shockers. It is why we have two new participants – Transit Tech and McKee/Staten Island Tech – and a reformatted top 10.
Thomas Jefferson moved up one spot after wins over Campus Magnet and No. 7 Forest Hills while the top three of Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Boys & Girls remain the same after each of the city powers passed challenging tests in the ‘AA’ quarterfinal round.
It’s all here in our PSAL boys’ basketball rankings:
1. Lincoln (19-10) (Last week: 1)
There really is something special about Darwin (Buddha) Ellis. Yes, he is fortunate to have played by Lance Stephenson’s side. But for seemingly every big Lincoln win over the last few years, particularly in the playoffs, Ellis has enjoyed a few clutch moments. That was the case Saturday with No. 6 Transit Tech breathing down the Railsplitters’ necks, until Ellis hit a couple of dagger 3-pointers.
Next: March 15 vs. No. 3 Boys & Girls in PSAL Class AA semifinals at St. John’s University
2. John F. Kennedy (25-2) (2)
Johnny Mathis sure hopes history repeats itself. The last two times Kennedy won the city title, in 2005 and 2001, it was nearly eliminated earlier in the postseason. It’s hard to come any closer then the Knights did in the ‘AA’ quarterfinals on Saturday, when MSIT’s Lower Ulmer nearly had them beaten with a foul-line jumper as the clock wound down. The shot rattled out, and JFK won in overtime.
Next: March 15 vs. No. 4 Thomas Jefferson in PSAL Class AA semifinals at St. John’s University
3. Boys & Girls (21-8) (3)
Would it be ironic, if the year The High gets past Lincoln, and wins that city championship the Bed Stuy school has been so doggedly in search of, is the season they didn’t rely on transfer students?
Next: March 15 vs. No. 1 Lincoln in PSAL Class AA semifinals @ St. John’s University
4. Thomas Jefferson (20-10) (5)
Beyond the return of Joel (Air Jamaica) Wright from suspension and guards Keith Spellman and Dave Coley from injuries, perhaps the emergence of junior guard Marcus Romain this postseason is even more important. In two wins, he has scored 19 and 12 points, but almost of his buckets have been important ones. The Orange Wave will need similar production from him to win that elusive city championship.
Next: March 15 vs. No. 2 Kennedy in PSAL Class AA semifinals @ St. John’s University
5. McKee/Staten Island Tech (24-6) (NR)
Lowell Ulmer may stand just 6-foot-4 ½, but the MSIT pivot played a whole lot bigger this week. He had 29 points against Cardozo big men Dwayne Brunson and Ryan Rhoomes, who stand 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, respectively, then added 21 against No. 2 Kennedy’s three some of 6-foot-6 forwards Shea Spence, Kelvin Dixon and Kuashonn Kibbler.
Next: Season over
6. Transit Tech (18-11) (NR)
Josh Lambert was unequivocally the second-best player on the court in the Express’s 86-80 quarterfinal loss to Lincoln. The Railsplitters looked to take shooting guard Jareid Bryan away, which would explain part of Lambert’s success. But by the second half, it was obvious he was Transit Tech’s top option. Yet there was nothing Lincoln could do it about. Lambert was getting to the rim at will. If he isn’t a scholarship-worthy player, somebody isn’t doing their job.
Next: Season over
7. Forest Hills (20-10) (7)
It may be too early for the Rangers to look back on this season, but we will. It should be remembered as a rousing success, another positive step in Ben Chobhaphand building Forest Hills into a city power. They won the school’s first Queens crown and advanced to the ‘AA’ quarterfinals, acquitting themselves well against No. 4 Thomas Jefferson. The future, after all, is bright, led by sophomores Maurice Harkless, Antoine Tutt and Nick Padgett.
Next: Season over
8. Wings Academy (20-6) (4)
Leading scorer Dashaun Wiggins missed the Wings’ second-round loss to Thomas Edison, but it was a game the Bronx school nevertheless has to win. That’s now two years in a row Billy Turnage’s kids have fallen so early, against an inferior team, too. The coach himself wasn’t happy with his team’s effort, even without Wiggins. Neither should his players.
Next: Season over
9. Curtis (23-8) (9)
Halil Kanacevic seems to be on a personal mission to make up for his absence in last year’s postseason. He isn’t just leading the Warriors to victories, he is dominating, on the offensive end, defensive end and both sides of the glass.
Next: March 14 vs. New Dorp in PSAL Class A semifinals @ Lehman College
10. Bedford Academy (25-3) (10)
Bedford Academy coach Deron Rippey may not like to read this -- he prefers to keep his players on edge -- but the Panthers handled a possibly difficult situation well on Sunday. Facing Cinderella Newtown, the No. 24 seed, Bedford won going away, never giving the Pioneers a reason for hope. That's how a top seed is supposed to handle its business this time of year.
Next: March 14 vs. George Westinghouse in PSAL Class A semifinals @ Lehman College
New: McKee/Staten Island Tech (24-6) and Transit Tech (18-11)
Dropped out: Wadleigh (22-8) and Cardozo (22-5)
On the bubble: Wadleigh (22-8), Cardozo (22-5), George Westinghouse (22-5), Thomas Edison (21-9), Brooklyn Collegiate (19-7), Newtown (16-10) and South Bronx (23-6)