By John Torenli
Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton found out just hours before tip-off Tuesday afternoon that he would not have highly recruited senior forward Tafari Whittingham for at least the first three games of the Public School Athletic League playoffs.
Though he refused to comment on the league’s decision to suspend the Division I prospect for a punch he allegedly threw during an eventual forfeit loss to Brooklyn rival South Shore on Jan. 31, Morton couldn’t have been pleased with losing one of his most consistent scorers and rebounders.
While Whittingham won’t be available to Lincoln until the city championship game at Madison Square Garden later this month at the earliest, the third-seeded ’Splitters didn’t let his absence get in the way of an easy second-round victory over visiting Beach Channel on Ocean Parkway.
Playing its first PSAL contest since losing to arch rival and two-time defending city champion Boys and Girls in the Brooklyn Borough semifinals on Feb. 9, Lincoln looked ready to return to the Garden for a second consecutive season following the dominating 82-27 win over the Dolphins.
Senior Rakim Lesane scored 13 points to lead a balanced attack as the ’Splitters welcomed back previously injured point guard Isaiah Whitehead to the lineup.
Whitehead’s eight-point, eight-rebound performance took a bit of the sting out of the unexpected loss of Whittingham, who was reportedly captured on video throwing a punch at a South Shore player.
Junior Shaquille Davis added 12 points and senior Travis Charles had 11 as Lincoln earned a spot in Sunday’s PSAL quarterfinals at St. John’s University, where the ’Splitters will meet No. 6 Curtis. (Log on to www.psal.org for a look at the AA bracket).
Having captured seven city titles and three state championships over the previous decade, Lincoln may be headed toward a semifinal showdown with Boys and Girls, which dispatched No. 15 Gompers, 74-53, on Tuesday evening.
Senior Leroy Fludd scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the second-seeded Kangaroos, who are trying to become the first PSAL program to rip off three straight titles since Morton led Lincoln to an unprecedented four in a row from 2006-09.
B&G edged Lincoln, 62-55, in last year’s MSG Final, marking the ninth time in 10 seasons one or the other Brooklyn school has been crowned champ.
The ’Splitters beat the ’Roos at Lincoln on Jan. 14, but have since dropped their last two encounters with coach Ruth Lovelace’s squad, including a 72-65 defeat in the regular-season finale for both teams on Feb. 2.
B&G will meet No. 7 South Shore on Sunday at St. John’s after the Vikings downed JFK, 63-50, on Wednesday for a chance to avenge their 57-54 loss to the ‘Roos in last year’s quarterfinals at Carnesecca Hall.
Junior Shamiek Sheppard and senior Wayne Parker scored 16 points apiece for South Shore, which used a 16-6 second quarter to pull in front after a slow start.
Top-seeded Jefferson, seeking its first city crown since 1954, lived up to its pre-tournament billing by beating up on No. 17 Robeson, 86-76, on Wednesday behind 39 points from senior Thad Hall.
Junior Jaquan Lynch added 17 points for the Orange Wave, which will take on No. 8 Wadleigh on Sunday in Jamaica, N.Y.
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Nearly 14 months after a heartbreaking and potentially program-debilitating loss to Brooklyn rival Fort Hamilton at Yankee Stadium in the 2010 Public School Athletic League championship game, the Railsplitters of Lincoln High School enjoyed their day in the sun Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.
Following their hard-to-swallow 8-6 defeat to the Tigers at “The House That Steinbrenner Built” on that cold December evening, coach Shawn O’Connor’s Railsplitters were facing the loss of nearly half their active roster, including senior two-way star Ishaq Williams and starting quarterback Andrew Vital.
Rather than go into rebuilding mode, Lincoln came back stronger than ever this past season, reeling off 13 consecutive wins and outscoring its opponents by a gaudy 518-98 margin.
Spearheaded by the brilliant play of running back Kareem Folkes and the poise of first-year starting quarterback Jessel Jones, the ’Splitters not only delivered Lincoln its first city championship in football since 1993, but dominated the league like no team in recent memory.
“I’m proud of what our kids did here,” O’Connor boasted proudly after the 20-12 triumph over Erasmus while holding aloft the PSAL championship trophy in the Bronx last Dec. 6, one day shy of the one-year anniversary of that seemingly calamitous loss to Fort Hamilton.
“We proved that we’re not just a basketball school,” he added, referring to Lincoln’s seven city championships and three state crowns on the hardwood over the past decade. “This was a great win for this team.”
A great win that got a little greater Wednesday afternoon, when City Councilman and Finance Chair, Domenic M. Recchia Jr., along with Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, presented a proclamation to the reigning champs.
“The Railsplitters overcame enormous odds,” noted Recchia Jr. “At the end of [the 2010 season], the young team lost 26 players and the remaining players had little game experience and a lot to learn. However, they made a commitment to come together and do what was necessary to ensure victory.
“They didn’t take time off, they didn’t take shortcuts, they simply worked hard and kept their grades up,” Recchia added. “The Railsplitters earned their victory with teamwork, an unmatched work ethic, and a fighting spirit.”
Jones, who is scheduled to graduate in June, wasn’t the least bit shy when asked about the chances of next year’s ’Splitters to repeat.
“They have the talent, so I expect them to win it again,” he said.
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Brooklyn native Clio Markman, an 11th grader at Manhattan’s Trevor Day School, is doing his share to facilitate better educational opportunities for those who like to hoop it up in our fair borough.
Markman, a regular at the Brooklyn Youth Sports Club on Wyckoff Street, has organized a Basketball Shootout to raise money for the facility at the Trevor Day School this evening (5 p.m.).
Funds collected at the event will go toward bolstering the club’s educational initiative “Beyond Basketball” — a program that helps inner-city Brooklyn-based student athletes with individual tutoring, SAT/ACT preparation, organizes study halls and offers college guidance.
“I am extremely excited to help the Brooklyn Youth Sports Club organize its first-ever Basketball Shootout,” said Markman. “The Beyond Basketball program is vital to the community and I can’t think of a better way to show my passion for basketball, Brooklyn, and giving back than to be a part of this inaugural event to help an organization that helps so many.”
Participants, consisting of high school and middle school students, will compete to score as many baskets as possible within a two-minute time span. The sharpshooters have been soliciting donations per basket, which is expected to translate into thousands of dollars, which will then go directly to the Beyond Basketball program serving underprivileged student athletes.
Markman and his Trevor Day teammates were scheduled to meet Joralemon Street’s Packer Collegiate School yesterday in the NYSAISS Federation playoffs.
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In local collegiate sports news, the Brooklyn College men’s basketball team, denied a spot in the Division III NCAA Tournament following a loss in the CUNYAC Tournament quarterfinals, isn’t done just yet.
The Bulldogs beat Rutgers-Newark, 93-80, on Wednesday night at the West Quad Center, advancing to the semifinal round of the annual ECAC Metro Division III Tournament.
Senior Tyshawn Russell scored a game-high 26 points for BC, which will meet Richard Stockton on Saturday.
The BC women, coming off a gut-wrenching defeat to Baruch in last weekend’s CUNYAC Tournament final, also reached the semifinals of the ECAC tourney with Wednesday’s dramatic 52-51 triumph over visiting Old Westbury.
Junior guard Charnelle Saint Laurent hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with just under three seconds to play as the Lady Bulldogs moved on to face top-seeded Rutgers-Newark on Saturday.
PSAL AA Basketball Playoffs
(All Games Sunday at St. John’s University)
No. 1 Jefferson vs. No. 8 Wadleigh
No. 2 Boys and Girls vs. No. 7 South Shore
No. 3 Lincoln vs. No. 6 Curtis
No. 4 Wings Academy vs. No. 5 Cardozo