By Marc Raimondi
Ron Naclerio and his assistant coaches with the Cardozo boys’ basketball team spent more than 90 minutes holed up in a basement locker room of Long Island University’s Wellness Center on Sunday afternoon.
There was a lot to talk about after the Judges’ 55-49 overtime loss to Forest Hills in the Brooklyn borough championship.
“If Lincoln didn’t come in [to use the locker room],” Naclerio said, “we would have stayed another 90 minutes.”
Cardozo (21-3) led most of the game, which including holding a 30-20 advantage with 3:30 left in the third quarter. But the Judges never delivered the knockout blow. Alex Hall, Forest Hills’ senior forward, had 16 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Rangers to the come-from-behind victory.
“We didn’t try to get them out of the game,” said junior guard Reynaldo (Junior) Walters, who had 13 points.
Walters’ floater off the glass with 13.5 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 40. But there wasn’t much urgency besides that from Cardozo – especially late in the game. Naclerio blamed the inexperience of his players. Not many of them have been in a championship situation before.
“I definitely thought we lost our intensity,” said junior forward Ryan Rhoomes, who had 18 points. “No one wanted to play anymore.”
Senior guard Jamel Williams and sophomore guard Shelton Mickell, who could have extended Forest Hills’ pack-it-in zone with their shooting ability, played sparingly. Williams injured his hand punching a wall in frustration at halftime and Mickell, Naclerio said, was not getting it done on the defensive end.
“He looked a little deer-in-the-headlights,” Naclerio said of Mickell. … “He was too timid. He had open shots, but he didn’t want to take them.”
Forest Hills (19-8), which has won nine straight games including a 46-42 home win against Cardozo on Jan. 30, was able to extend Cardozo’s defense with Hall hitting shots from the outside down the stretch. Junior forward Dwayne Brunson, who Naclerio said played his worst game of the season, had to come out of the post to defend Hall.
“We found out Dwayne doesn’t like chasing guys on the perimeter,” the coach said.
Walters thought his Judges may have underestimated Forest Hills. ‘Dozo seemed to be comfortable with their lead and when it was time to turn on the switch during the Rangers’ run, the power was out.
“I think we were more overconfident,” Walters said. “We were satisfied.”
Now, Cardozo will have to be satisfied with a worse seed. The Judges had a chance to be No. 4 coming into Sunday, but will almost definitely drop when the PSAL committee meets Monday morning.
“They played harder,” Walters said. “They wanted it more.”
Naclerio, though, thinks this setback, however disheartening, could be a lesson for his younger players.
“When we hit the playoffs,” he said, “maybe we’ll win a game like this.”