No teams that call the borough home brought a championship back to the Boogie Down, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a memorable boys’ basketball season in the Bronx.
In the CHSAA, Sidiki Johnson, a sophomore forward at St. Raymond’s, established himself as one of the top up-and-coming players in the city, All Hallows shocked everyone by reaching the Class AA intersectional semifinals and gave Rice a run for its money and Monsignor Scanlan’s magical run to the Class B final fell just short of a title.
In the PSAL, John F. Kennedy’s emotional season ended with a Class AA title loss to Lincoln at Madison Square Garden. That’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
And the future in the Bronx looks bright, as well. All Hallows and St. Ray’s returns almost all of their top players and keep an eye on sophomore Peter Aguilar of Mount St. Michael, who is poised for a breakout season next winter.
BRONX BOYS’ BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Naquan Pierce, John F. Kennedy: It’s hard to pinpoint at what point the 5-foot-9 Pierce won this award.
Was it his memorable 37-point performance in the classic PSAL Class AA quarterfinal overtime victory over McKee/Staten Island Tech, when he basically carried the Knights on his lithe shoulders? How about his 17-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist effort in the Bronx Borough final win over Wings? Or that right elbow jumper he hit to send Kennedy past Jefferson and back to Madison Square Garden? Was it his ability to play both off and point guard positions during much of the 19-game winning streak with Jeffrey Arzu struggling? Was it his cool-as-ice demeanor down the stretch?
It was probably all of the above. Save for Lincoln star Lance Stephenson, there wasn’t another guard as clutch as the soft-spoken Pierce, that smooth running jumper swishing the nets whenever called upon.
BRONX BOYS’ BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Johnny Mathis, John F. Kennedy: For the fourth time, the legendary coach led the Knights to Madison Square Garden for the PSAL city championship game. Only this time, Kennedy didn’t leave with the trophy. But Mathis did everything in his power to get them there. He benched seniors Jeffrey Arzu and Shea Spence at mid-season so reserves such as Jeffrey Short and Elijah Spear could gain confidence. Around that time, Kennedy started a 19-game winning streak. He was instrumental in Pierce’s rise as one of the city’s best guards.
Off the court, he wouldn’t let anyone forget Andre (Pop) Davidson, the former forward who fatally collapsed July 5, one week after his graduation, when playing a pickup game of basketball at St. Mary’s Gym in the South Bronx. He organized a memorial for Davidson the first home league game. His players took on the memory of Davidson as a rallying cry.
Oh, and Mathis picked up his 500th career victory, too.
ALL-BRONX FIRST TEAM:
G Tyreak Johnson, St. Raymond’s: The heart and soul of St. Raymond’s, Tyreak Johnson was the lone returning starter and was tasked with being the leader on an off the court for the young Ravens. Tyreak Johnson did just that and more. Powerfully built, Tyreak Johnson was a hard-nosed defender who not only got his teammates involved, but still averaged a team-high 12.6 points per game. Still undecided, the 6-foot senior point guard was also named a second-team All-CHSAA selection in a vote of league coaches.
G Mike Alvarado, All Hallows: A smooth-shooting, fundamentally sound junior guard, Alvarado averaged 13.2 points per game during the regular season, tied for the team high with fellow guard Rashawn Stores. He was named MVP in an upset win over JFK at the Big Apple Basketball Challenge in December and his 3-pointer gave the Gaels a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter in the CHSAA AA intersectional semifinals against Rice, before the Raiders rallied late.
G Dashaun Wiggins, Wings: The southpaw shooting guard is a difficult match-up. He can shoot from the perimeter and get the basket at will. Wiggins, who averaged 19 points per game, this year, second in Bronx AA, is also extremely tough.
G Ron Baker, Wings: On a team that lacked consistency, Baker was an anomaly. He always managed to get his points; if he was jump shot wasn’t falling, he got to the basket; if that wasn’t working he willed his way to the free throw line. A four-year contributor on the varsity, The 6-foot-2 Baker, who played out of position at small forward for the undersized Wings, averaged double figures his last three seasons, scoring over 17 points per game and grabbing close to six rebounds as a senior. That production should pay off soon enough; Baker is on the verge of gaining a Division I scholarship, pending a qualifying SAT score, Wings coach Billy Turnage said.
F Sidiki Johnson, St. Raymond’s: Double-doubles were the norm for this 6-foot-7 sophomore stud who regularly played in front of a bevy of Division I coaches. The lone sophomore on any of the three All-CHSAA teams (he was named to the third team), Sidiki Johnson was ferocious in the paint, averaging 11.3 points per game during the regular season. But in the postseason, Sidiki Johnson picked up his game. He will be a terror the next two years.
G David Love, Gompers : As a junior, he was a role player for the team that made it to the PSAL Class B semifinals. As a senior, Love, a 5-foot-10 pure scorer, was a star, even if he spent much of the year at point guard, an uncustomary spot. He averaged 21.6 points per game, tops in Bronx AA, four rebounds and three assists. The return of point guard Tevin Bracey late in the year enabled Love to return to shooting guard, where he exploded down the stretch, leading the Panthers to a near upset of Kennedy in the Bronx borough semifinals and the second round of the ‘AA’ playoffs.
G Peter Aguilar, Mount St. Michael: The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard burst onto the scene, scoring a game-high 27 points in his varsity debut and never looked back. The sweet-shooting Aguilar averaged 21.7 points per game, second in Class A behind Hofstra-bound Chaz Williams of Bishop Ford, and scored 20 or more points 14 times. He formed a great partnership with grizzled veteran guard Will Williams and should be one of the top scoring threats in the CHSAA next year.
G Will Williams, Mount St. Michael: Williams epitomized what it means to be a Mount St. Michael basketball player – he was a hard-nosed, gritty point guard who played the type of in-your-face defense that Mount coach Tom Fraher expects of all his players. That’s not to say Williams doesn’t score. He averaged 11.6 points per game.
G Harold McBride, St. Raymond’s: Tyreak Johnson was the lone returning senior starter, the unequivocal leader of the Ravens. Sidiki Johnson was the rising star.
F Chris Manhertz, Cardinal Spellman: Manhertz erupted last year, averaging 13 points and 14 rebounds per game as a sophomore. As a junior, the 6-foot-4 forward was even more dominant in the paint for the Falcons, which was especially impressive after forward Damir Radzepagic went down with a season-ending ACL injury midway through the year. Not only did Manhertz score at will and grab every rebound, he was the most imposing shot blocker in the CHSAAA.
ALL-BRONX THIRD TEAM:
G Rashawn Stores, All Hallows: A third-team All-CHSAA selection, Stores never lost his head during a tumultuous regular season and was one of the big reasons why All Hallows made a remarkable playoff run and nearly pulled off the upset of upsets, pushing eventual Class AA intersectional champion Rice to the brink. The 6-foot senior guard averaged 13.2 points per game for the Gaels.
F Gary Acquah, Mount St. Michael: Acquah was often undersized in the paint, but that didn’t stop the 6-foot-2, 235-pound beast from grabbing every rebound in site with his massive hands. Acquah is a two-way football player, playing both fullback and linebacker and brought that same intensity with him to the basketball court.
F Jeffrey Short, John F. Kennedy: There were games he looked like a burgeoning superstar and occasions he couldn’t stay on the court. Short, a 6-foot-5 forward blessed with guard skills, broke into the starting rotation in January and remained there the rest of the season. He was instrumental in Kennedy’s 19-game winning streak. He had a sparkling 25 points and 15 rebounds in the Knights’ borough championship win over Wings.
F Edwin Pasqual, Lehman: Pasqual was supposed to be the third threat for the scoring-rich Lions, behind talented guard Aaron Barnes and big man Armand (Big Baby) Thomas. Barnes, however, injured his knee midway through the season. The talented senior wing, Pasqual filled the void, scoring 18 points per games and serving as Lehman’s playmaker.
C Kristian Duravcevic, Fordham Prep: At 6-foot-8, Duravcevic was one of the biggest players in the post in the ‘A.’ He was also the Rams’ leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game, good for fifth in CHSAA Class A.
ALL-BRONX HONORABLE MENTION: G Aaron Barnes, Lehman; G Jeffrey Arzu, John F. Kennedy; G Dashawn Joyner, South Bronx; G Brandon Hill, Scanlan; F Fabean Blackwood, Eagle Academy; F Brandon Stolz, Truman; F John Hargrove, Smith; F Steven Sholkoff, Scanlan; F James Pamphile, Spellman; and C Leroy Proudfoot, Clinton.