By John Torenli
There was nothing remotely trivial about Boys and Girls’ third consecutive Public School Athletic League championship, which was earned with a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire 71-67 victory over Thomas Jefferson in an all-Brooklyn final at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon.
But Kangaroos coach Ruth Lovelace, now the first and only coach in the storied program’s long history to complete a championship three-peat, couldn’t help asking moments after joining her jubilant players, “Who’s the only player to be a member of all three [championships]?”
The answer, of course, is senior forward Leroy “Truck” Fludd, who scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and frustrated Orange Wave star forward Thad Hall throughout the tightly contested game.
After a week of trash talk between the senior leaders, it was Fludd who got the final say, with Hall reduced to silent tears alongside Jefferson coach Lawrence “Bud” Pollard.
“I told you all before the game, it was a guaranteed win,” Fludd preened. “I don’t guarantee wins for nothing.”
Of course, Fludd’s post-game bravado would not have been possible without the brilliant play of senior guard Rashad Andrews, a transfer from the legendary St. Anthony’s program in Jersey City.
The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to stake B&G to an eight-point lead. He also nailed five 3-pointers, including four over the first 16 minutes, and hit all but one of his eight free-throw attempts as the ’Roos proved they were the best basketball team in the city yet again.
“The [community and student body] really rallied behind us,” said Lovelace from the winners’ podium, humbled by her latest, and perhaps greatest, achievement in a trail-blazing career. “They pack our gym when we play. It means a lot for our program.”
As for the Orange Wave, a dream season ended in nightmarish fashion after Hall fouled out down the stretch.
Hoping to capture its first city title since 1954, Jefferson instead will have to settle for taking home the Brooklyn AA regular-season crown and the Brooklyn Borough Championship – two titles that earned the Wave the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
Not bad, but not what Pollard and his determined team were after at the Garden on Saturday afternoon.
“It doesn’t matter when your season ends, it always hurts,” noted Pollard, who was also very emotional after the loss. “It’s always the worst day of the school year. It’s the last day of basketball, and it makes it worse when it ends with a loss.”
Jefferson junior Jaquan Lynch, who finished with a team-high 18 points, remained poised after the bitter ending to the campaign, offering hope for the 2012-13 season.
“It hit me [that we lost] when I saw them celebrating,” he said. “We have to try to come back, work hard in the summer and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Wave need only look at this year’s PSAL football champs for inspiration.
Lincoln dropped a heart-breaking decision to Fort Hamilton in the 2010 championship game at Yankee Stadium, but returned hungrier in 2011, walking off with the title last December after outlasting Brooklyn rival Erasmus in the Bronx.
As for the ’Roos, they have only one more hill to climb to be considered arguably the greatest PSAL team ever.
Only the Lance Stephenson-led Railsplitters who proceeded them with a four-year reign as city champions have accomplished more than Lovelace’s charges.
Lincoln will doubtlessly be eager to defend its not-so-distant four-peat when next season begins, and as usual, the ’Roos will be out to join their arch-rivals atop the PSAL record book.
Before they do, however, Lovelace’s team must re-adjust its focus. B&G will take on Catholic School powerhouse St. Raymond’s on Saturday in the Federation State Championship semifinals in Glens Falls, N.Y.