In his return from a two-game suspension, Joshua Lambert scored 10 points. Photo by Damion Reid
By Joseph Staszewski
Mike Perazzo was hesitant to celebrate as his team jumped in a huddle of jubilation in front of him.
Wadleigh’s Terence Henderson had just missed a free throw with 1.1 seconds left and Perazzo’s East New York Transit Tech squad, which was up a point, secured the rebound. It was unclear, however, if the senior was shooting 1-and-1 or two shots after being fouled under the basket.
“I wasn’t sure, I thought because the ref didn’t do anything I thought it was [one],” Perazzo said. “I thought he could have fouled him on the floor before the shot it.”
The referees, both of whom afterward said it was a two-shot foul, corrected the error and put the time back on the clock and Henderson again at the line with a chance to tie.
He missed again and time ran out.
No. 9 Transit Tech had turned away a furious No. 8 Wadleigh comeback and held on for a 70-69 win in a PSAL Class AA boys’ basketball second-round game in Harlem Tuesday evening. The Express, who led by as many as 19 in the second quarter, move on to play No. 1 Lincoln, which beat them twice during the regular season and once in the Brooklyn borough playoffs, in the quarterfinals at St. John’s University on Saturday.
For Wadleigh (22-8), the finish provided a gut-wrenching end to a fine season. The beginning of the game also brought another point of angst for the Tigers when one of their plays was called for a technical foul for dunking in the layup line. Jareid Bryan made 1-of-2 free throws for Transit Tech.
“We had a comeback,” said Wadleigh coach Mike Crump, who was unhappy with the overall refereeing, but refused to make it an excuse. “We had a chance to win. All we had to do was make two free throws. The senior was on the line. We had it. ”
Forward Rhamel Brown nearly had a triple-double for Transit Tech (18-10) as he dropped in 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked nine shots. Bryan scored 21 points, Barry Posey had 15 and Joshua Lambert added 10. Malik Thomas scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half for Wadleigh, Henderson had 15 and Karim Rowson added 11.
“He is the most underrated defensive player in the city,” Perazzo said of Brown. “He changes games because he is there. He allows us to pressure the ball. Whenever we get beat he fixes those mistakes.”
Thomas nearly changed his team’s fortunes by scoring seven points in a 12-0 run over the final 1:10 of the third quarter and into the fourth. His put back with 7:16 left in the game gave Wadleigh just its second lead of the contest at 56-55. After the teams traded baskets for most of the fourth, Transit Tech took the lead for good at 67-66 on tip in by Brown with 2:06 remaining.
“We needed it more,” Brown said. “I tried my best to get up there and I got the tip.”
Sigbert Guy Jr. connected on a layup and Brown made 1-of-2 free throws to put Transit Tech up four with 52.2 second left. A backcourt violation gave the ball back to the Express, but Bryan missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Thomas drained a 3-pointer from the right side to make it 70-69 with 8.7 left. Bryan missed another front end to set up Henderson’s free throws in the closing seconds.
“We played well the last couple of minutes,” Perazzo said. “We missed a couple of foul shots. The guy hit a tough 3. They made some tough plays. So I guess we were just lucky in the end that we were still winning by one.”
The Express used a dominant defensive effort inside by Brown, some sharpshooting by Bryan and an unshakable composure to build a 33-18 lead with 4:26 remaining in the first half after a 10-2 run.
“We shouldn’t have been in a situation to make a comeback,” Crump said. “We gave up layup after layup after layup. We weren’t committed to defense.”
Lambert, in his first game back since serving a two-game suspension after being ejected from a game against Robeson in early February for fighting, did a superb job breaking Wadleigh’s pressure.
“The way he passes and splits the defense it made it that much easier for us,” Posey said.
A quarterfinal berth is quite an accomplishment for a team in its first season at the ‘AA’ level, after winning consecutive PSAL Class A titles.
“(Being) one of only eight teams left,” Perazzo said, “is a great step for our program.”