Jeffrey Short isn’t passing up shots anymore. The John F. Kennedy boys’ basketball team couldn’t be happier. Wings Academy isn’t nearly as thrilled.
The unassuming 6-foot-5 junior wing scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in a Bronx borough final-changing 16-1 run, bridging the third and fourth quarters, to lead the Knights to a 61-58 victory over the Wings at LIU’s Wellness Center Sunday evening.
It snapped Wings’ four-year run as borough champion and marked Kennedy’s first such crown despite reaching the final each year.
“We came to show it’s different this year,” said senior guard Naquan Pierce, who had 15 points in the Knights’ 14th consecutive victory.
“It’s just another feather in our cap,” coach Johnny Mathis said. “It gives us a better chance at the Garden. We started talking about the Garden the first week in September.”
At the time, Short wasn’t capable of such heroics. By the season’s outset, he was still unsure of whether he fit talent-wise on the varsity level.
Slowly, after almost constant prodding and cajoling from coaches and teammates alike he got into the act. He became a starter in early January, around the same time the winning streak began.
Short, who missed his first two years of high-school basketball because of academic ineligibility, started the spurt with a long-range 3-pointer from 25 feet out on the left wing to end the third quarter. The rainbow sliced the Wings lead, at that time eight, 40-32, to five.
He started the final stanza with another trifecta – a shot that gave the Knights’ their first lead since the opening quarter – and added consecutive traditional 3-point plays in transition to push the lead to seven, 48-41, with 3:30 remaining.
Wings (20-5) reeled off five straight points, on a Ronald Baker 3-pointer and two Dashaun Wiggins (21 points) free throws, but Jeffrey Arzu answered by flying past Wiggins for a layup, one of only two field goals for the senior guard.
Kennedy hasn’t been at its best the last two games, yet the winning streak is still going. On Thursday, it came out lackadaisical and fell into a 12-point hole to Gompers before rallying. Against Wings, the Knights also trailed for much of the way. Yet, they found a way to win each time.
Kennedy expects to be one of the top seeds when the PSAL announces its seeding for the upcoming city playoffs on Monday. They’ve beaten Brooklyn power Boys & Girls, Uniondale, arguably the best team on Long Island, and now Wings twice, once at a neutral site. Getting back to the Garden – the magical place everyone at Kennedy talks about – is a pretty realistic goal.