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St. Ray’s shows maturity

Like a proud father with a newborn child, St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua is watching his team grow up right in front of his eyes.

After losing back-to-back games to open the season, the young Ravens have now won two straight after a 71-59 victory against Wings Academy in the sixth annual Big Apple Basketball Challenge Saturday night at Baruch College.

“It feels good, boy,” Antigua said. “It feels really good.”

Most impressive was the maturity St. Ray’s, which has just one senior who saw major minutes last year, showed down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Wings (4-2) trapped and pressed, but the Ravens played with poise late, wisely working the clock and taking smart shots.

Particularly noteworthy was junior guard Devin Brooks, a Chelsea transfer. In the Ravens first three games, Brooks struggled to play within the team’s system. But against Wings, Brooks, who has an offer from St. John’s and played in front of Red Storm coach Norm Roberts, played his best game in a St. Ray’s uniform.

“He had a really good floor game and then he had 10 points in the second half,” Antigua said. “That’s a great for him… I liked the fact that he let the game come to him.”

What St. Ray’s (2-2) doesn’t have in terms of senior leadership and size, it makes up for with superb passing. Everyone on the roster can handle the ball and everyone, it seems, can pass it. That makes the Ravens especially dangerous when they get out in transition, as was the case against Wings.

“You saw us moving the ball,” Antigua said. “Guys were finding guys. I don’t even know how they were finding guys.”

Wings coach Billy Turnage said he didn’t get a chance to scout St. Raymond’s because both teams played on the same days. He knew about senior guard Jattone Pierce-Bias and sophomore standouts Kerwin Okoro and Daniel Dingle. But Gabe Burroughs? Not so much. Turnage would find out soon enough about the senior guard’s shooting skills.

“He hurt us,” Turnage said.

Wings came out in a zone and Burroughs’ eyes widened. He buried a pair of 3-pointers and scored on a layup as St. Ray’s went on an 11-0 run to take an early 14-4 lead.

Burroughs, who didn’t play during the summer because of a back injury, scored a team-high 17 points, including 13 in the first half.

“He can score the ball and he’s a good athlete for a guard,” Antigua said. “He’s our shooter. I was surprised they came out in a zone and he banged three threes in the first half and that was the end of that.”

Junior guard Deonte Houston led Wings with 19 points and six rebounds and sophomore guard Ian Vasquez added 11 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. But Wings could never overcome its early deficit.

“Offensively we struggled to get what we wanted tonight,” Turnage said. “The tempo was too slow for us. I don’t think we got enough shots off from the field and the shots we did get off we didn’t make.”

Dingle had 15 points and eight rebounds and Okoro added 13 for St. Ray’s, which will step back on the court next Sunday at home against Christ the King.

“We have these small goals,” Antigua said. “We’re not going to go undefeated, we’re not going to be nationally ranked, but we just want to get better as a team, win all the little battles and improve as the season goes along.”

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