Brooklyn has long been the home of the best high school basketball teams in New York City, producing future NBA players like Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson as well as legendary local coaches like Dwayne "Tiny" Morton and Ruth Lovelace.
For the past 25 years, however, the PSAL Basketball Championship Game has been played across the East River at our nation's hoops mecca, Madison Square Garden, instead of right here in our fair borough.
But due to a scheduling conflict at the self-proclaimed "World's Most Famous Arena", the AA Boys' and Girls' Finals were left without a home last month, forcing the PSAL to scramble for a venue to house its most important event of the year.
For Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, there was only one place where Brooklyn's best high school teams could best celebrate a title next month.
“Many of Brooklyn’s all-time greatest players have played in the PSAL Championships so it’s only fitting for these celebrated games to be held at Barclays Center,” Yormark said Wednesday after officially announcing that the Downtown state-of-the-art facility would step in and host both finals on the afternoon of March 8.
“We are delighted to offer the city’s best teams the chance to show their talent on Brooklyn’s biggest stage," added Yormark.
While former Lincoln High School star Telfair celebrated a then-unprecedented three straight city crowns at MSG from 2002-04, and Stephenson followed suit for the Railsplitters with a record four title-game wins in a row there from 2006-09, Lovelace's Kangaroos of Boys and Girls High School carved out a dynasty of their own on 34th Street by winning successive championships from 2010-12.
Morton's Lincoln crew, spearheaded by Seton Hall-bound guard Isaiah Whitehead, knocked off Brooklyn rival Jefferson to grab last year's title.
That very well may be the last city championship at the Garden for some time, if Yormark and company can convince the PSAL to remain at Barclays for the foreseeable future rather than returning to MSG.
All told, 12 of the past 13 city championship teams have come from Brooklyn, and local schools like Grady and Erasmus have joined Lincoln and B&G in winning boys' titles at MSG since 1987.
This year, with Lincoln (15-0 Brooklyn AA Division) and Jefferson (11-3), leading the pace, chances are good that a team from our borough will capture the championship trophy for the ninth year in a row.
And they won't have to cross any bridges to do it.
Of course, the same can't be said for the reigning 15-time girls' city champions from Murry Bergtraum High School, who knocked off Brooklyn's South Shore High School last March at MSG.
The Lady Blazers won't have to go far to earn Title XLI, as their school is located adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan, just a 10-minute bus ride from Barclays.
Carmen Farina, the city's new Schools Chancellor and a Brooklynite, was on board with the move to Barclays, though neither the PSAL or MSG has yet indicated whether the game would return to Manhattan in 2015.
“The PSAL basketball championships are exciting for our students, families and schools,” she said. “Whether in the classroom or on the basketball court, we have incredibly talented students. As a Brooklyn native and current resident, I want to thank Barclays Center for hosting this event.”
“Brooklyn’s home court has come to the rescue for our public school athletes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled,” added Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Along with providing our public school students with the chance to enjoy healthy physical activity, the PSAL athletic program teaches our kids about discipline, fair play and teamwork. Plus, their annual basketball title games will give Brooklyn’s—and all of New York City’s—public school athletes the chance to play in an NBA arena, an opportunity for our youth to feel like the champions we know they are. Barclays Center has stepped up to be a “champion” to our young champions.”
The March 8 doubleheader will begin at noon with the girls' title game. The boys are scheduled to follow at approximately 2 p.m.
“I look forward to seeing our top girls varsity and boys varsity basketball teams compete at Barclays Center,” said Deputy Chancellor of Operations Kathleen Grimm. “This is the first time our schools will be playing in this popular arena and I want to thank Barclays Center for making its venue available to the PSAL. I am ready to cheer on our student athletes.”
The PSAL was established in 1903 and is the longest running scholastic athletic program in the country.
Tickets for the PSAL Championships go on sale beginning Friday, Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online via Ticketmaster by visiting www.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.
Tickets will also be available at Barclays Center beginning Saturday, Feb. 15 at noon (if still available).