2001-03-14 / Sports

Banneker Bounces Aviation, 61–48, In PSAL "B" Semi-Final Tilt

Banneker Bounces Aviation, 61–48, In PSAL "B" Semi-Final Tilt

By Richard Kagan

It was a little bit like David versus Goliath. The boys of Benjamin Banneker Academy H.S. basketball team were bigger and taller at almost every position than the Aviation Flyers from Long Island City. But this was a semi-final game in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) "B" division at Alumni Hall on the St. John’s University campus and Aviation, a number six seed, came to play with heart.

The Flyers (23-4), gave it their all for four quarters, but in the end Banneker’s size differential did make a difference, as the Warriors (24-3) pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 61-48, and advance to the "B" Finals at Madison Square Garden this weekend.

Aviation Coach Steve Hagenlocher, the Number 2 seed presented a difficult matchup. "They are big and fast," Hagenlocher said. "If we can slow them down and play our defense half-court the way we normally do, we should be able to get some turnovers." The plan worked at the beginning of the game, as Aviation raced out to a 15-7 lead. The Flyers were able to slow the Warriors down, and get second-chance rebounds.

But in the second quarter, the Warriors found their pace and gradually took the lead and, in effect, control of the game. The Warriors outscored Aviation 21-11 in the second quarter to take a 28-24 half-time lead.

Pete Caris, a three-point specialist for the Flyers, led his team with 16 points. Caris kept firing away from the perimeter in the second half to keep his team close. But Banneker’s Gary Forbes asserted himself and found his way to the basket for 20 points to lead all scorers. Forbes flourished as the Warriors got their transition game in gear. Coach Windell Saunders of Banneker thought Forbes did what he had to do. "He played well," Saunders said. "He has the eye of the tiger. He is a very smart player." Smart and tall, Forbes, who looked like a 6-foot, 5-inch guard, according to Hagenlocher, was able to penetrate Aviation’s defense, especially in the second half.

Banneker had a 41-39 lead early in the fourth quarter. Caris and Kareem Bertrand (13 points) kept the Flyers close. But then Banneker’s Nanauw Saunderson entered the game and reeled off six points on three quick baskets to help his team pull away. Coach Saunders was pleased with Saunderson’s contribution. "He came through," Saunders said. "He is a man against boys. He likes to take the ball to the basket." Saunders did, and soon the Warriors were ahead 51-42 with under 4:00 to play. It looked like it would be Banneker’s day.

Douglas Hammond also made his presence felt for the Warriors. He made some nice drives to the hoop and his basket put the Warriors up 53-45 with 2:00 to go. Aviation was forced to hoist up three-pointers and the shots didn’t fall. The Warriors had the game in the bag and now move on to face Thurgood Marshall Academy for the PSAL "B" title.

Hagenlocher was proud of his team’s effort. After all, they got to the Final Four. They (Banneker) were big and that hurt us. I thought we played well, considering their size and our size. I’m proud of what we did," he said.

Robert Rivera, along with senior Jack Covington, is co-captain of the Flyers. He, too, was proud of his team’s great year. "We just came out and played every game to the fullest and just came up short in the end," Rivera said.

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