Before the opening tip-off of John F. Kennedy’s PSAL home opener, emotions were already running high. But it had little to do with a basketball game.
A memorial ceremony was held in the gymnasium for former Knights forward Andre (Pop) Davidson, who died after collapsing in a pick-up game July 5. A moment of silence to remember the genuinely pleasant 18-year-old was then obeyed during which many current players broke down.
“It was moving for everybody,” senior forward Shea Spence said after JFK’s 79-58 win over Truman.
Maybe a little too moving. The usually loud gym was quiet after Spence’s left-wing jumper gave JFK an early lead on its first possession. The Knights had too on their mind, coach Johnny Mathis said, playing little defense and committing several uncharacteristic mistakes, be it turnovers or ill-advised shots.
“They were emotionally drained,” he said. “I think we sort of played down (to the competition).”
Added Spence: “It was tough on some of the guys.”
The Knights (2-0) allowed the Mustangs (0-1), just 6-9 a season ago, to hang around, staying within single digits until late in the first half when Kennedy kicked it into gear.
The lead ballooned to 20 after guard Naquan Pierce drained a step-back 3-pointer, his third of the evening, and grew to 25 on Jeffrey Arzu’s layup. It was breeze from there, Kennedy’s imposing front line allowing few easy baskets and setting up their potent transition game.
“We played okay,” Pierce said, “we could’ve played better.”
There were many positives, most notably the Knights’ ability to shake off the slow start. Five different players – Pierce had a team-high 18, Jeffrey Short had 13, Spence 12, Vizcaino 11 and Arzu 10 – scored in double figures. And Kennedy made sure to put Trumanaway after halftime, scoring the 16 of the first 20 points in the third quarter.
“We’re a deep team,” Mathis said. “We can go play possibly 10 players.”
Said Arzu: “We’ve got good chemistry. We don’t worry about who scores the most. We can all do it.”
Brandon Stolz led Truman with 19 points and senior Vance Callahan added 12.