Written BY: Marc Ramondi
The seconds were winding down when Chaz Williams caught a breaking Lance Stephenson out of the corner of his eye. Leading the run-out on the right flank, Williams lobbed a pass up with his left hand and Stephenson rose, throwing down a two-handed tomahawk jam to bring the standing-room only crowd to its feet.
“Lance – undecided!” IS8 founder and PA announcer Pete Edwards boomed into the microphone.
Normally, Edwards follows a player’s name with the school he’ll be attending for college. There was plenty of that Sunday when the NY Panthers-Seniors beat the Playaz Club-Sophomores, 78-65, in the IS8/Nike Spring H.S. Classic in South Jamaica.
For the Panthers, Chaz Williams is going to Hofstra, Omari Lawrence is headed to St. John’s, Kevin Parrom will play at Arizona, Lamar Patterson is bound for Pittsburgh and Jackie Carmichael is going to Illinois State.
Stephenson is, well, still undecided, as Edwards aptly put it.
The Lincoln phenom poured in 25 points to win the most valuable player award Sunday, but didn’t have much to say afterward – at least not about his pending recruitment or his court date Tuesday for allegedly sexually assault a female classmate outside the Coney Island school.
“I’m not talking,” Stephenson told FiveBoroSports.com, rather matter-of-factly.
He did most of his talking on the court, as has been his way for the last four years, leading Lincoln to an unprecedented four PSAL city championships. That career came full circle in a way Sunday. Stephenson won IS8 as an eighth grader with Gary Charles and the Panthers then and he did it again in his probable final appearance as New York City schoolboy.
“We started together and we finished together,” said Charles, the Panthers’ patriarch.
There was a scary moment with 1:38 left in the first quarter. Stephenson went up for a monster blocked shot and came down hard. He lay motionless, face down, for about two minutes before coming out of the game. His father, Lance (Stretch) Stephenson, said he jammed his wrist in the fall, but he didn’t seem any worse for wear. He helped the Panthers build a big lead after halftime, one they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Lance is Lance,” Parrom said.
Parrom said he didn’t know if Stephenson was planning on coming to Arizona and he wasn’t trying to force the issue – “I’m a player, not a recruiter,” he said – but he did say he enjoyed his time playing with Stephenson for the first time.
Winning at IS8 was a big deal for Parrom, who scored 14 points in the final.
“I was telling Pete before, I always get to the semis and always lose,” he said. “I’ve been coming here since I was in the sixth grade.”
Charles was all smiles after the victory. He posed for photos with his players and their nearly 8-foot, gold trophies. Both Parrom and Lawrence said it was a good thing they were driving home to the Bronx and not taking the subway. For both, though, it was the feeling of winning the prestigious event and not the hardware they obtained.
“It’s the biggest tournament in New York,” Lawrence said.
Added Charles: “It means that we’re the best in the metropolitan area. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Notes: While Stephenson was the championship game MVP, Jayvaughn Pinkston of the New Heights-Juniors was named player of the tournament. Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-7 swingman out of Paterson (N.J.) Catholic, was chosen as freshman of the tournament. … Saint Peters (N.J.) HS sophomore Myles Davis led the Playaz with 23 points and Myles Mack, out of Paterson Catholic, added 15 points. Patterson and Williams each had eight points for the Panthers.