Michael Alvarado made big play after big play down the stretch to try to secure All Hallows its first win of the season. Yet for just a second it appeared his efforts would not be enough.
With his team up by two, All Hallows junior Pape Konteye missed two free throws with 15.9 seconds left. John F. Kennedy guard Naquan Pierce sped the ball up the court and dished it to start a fast break that appeared would end with an easy layup. Instead the ball rolled off from left to right across the back of the rim. A surrounded Shea Spence got the rebound, but saw his put back fall short.
All Hallows held on for a 45-43 win over JFK at the Big Apple Basketball Challenge at Baruch College on Sunday. Alvarado scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to earn game MVP honors.
“We were just hoping he would miss,” Alvarado said. “We were hoping they would fold under pressure. We should have made our free throws and we wouldn’t have to be worrying so much .”
Alvarado made run-stopping plays each time it appeared Kennedy, one of the PSAL’s top squads, was going to come back and finally over take All Hallows (1-2). After the Knights tied the score at 40 with 2:05 left Alvarado drove left baseline all the way to the opposite side of the court, then quickly reversed his dribble back to basket for an easy hoop.
“I just saw him cheating out, so I just turned around,” Alvarado said.
Kennedy (8-1) then took a 43-42 lead, its first since 5-3, on Ross Vizcaino’s fifth 3-pointer of the game, only to have Alvarado make three of his next four free throws to put All Hallows up for good. Vizcaino scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Pierce added 11 points and six boards. The final play was a microcosm of the Knights’ poor shooting night. They shot just 22.9 percent for the game and just 5-for-29 from behind the arc.
“We played hard and we didn’t score the ball,” Kennedy coach Johnny Mathis said. “[Saturday] at practice we ran drills and we’ve been having problems with layups. We’ve been shooting the ball well, but we weren’t making layups. Down the stretch, we missed two layups under the basket.”
All Hallows led by as many as 11 late in the second quarter, but the Kennedy guards were finally able to use their defensive pressure to quicken the pace of the game to start the second half. An 11-0 Knights run capped by two Vizcaino free throws cut the lead to 29-28 with 2:54 left in the third. The senior connected on an NBA range 3-pointer to make it 39-37 with 2:30 left. Konteye had seven points and 12 rebounds for All Hallows.
“We allowed them to control tempo,” Mathis said. “We can’t afford it. We have to play up tempo.”
All Hallows finally has a win to show for its improving play. It opened the season with a loss to Mount St. Michael and then played well at Rice on Friday.
“We just have to keep playing as a team, limit our turnovers and play smart,” Alvarado said. “When we play as a team we play better and just win games.”