Jose Perez said he was sorry in the best way possible.
The Wings boys’ basketball star forward sat on the bench for the first quarter against Staten Island power Curtis for disciplinary reasons. He saw his team trailing by nine points heading into the second.
Perez didn’t wait long to impact the game once he stepped on the court. He scored 15 of his 20 points in the second quarter and helped his team stabilize the game with is defense and presence on the backboards.
“My mind set is get the team back and make a run, chip the lead down and going into the second half and take over the game,” Perez said.
Wings rallied to tie the score going into halftime and never trailed after a 3-pointer from Boubacar Kamissoko to start the third. The defending PSAL and state Federation Class AA champions when on to grind out a 75-61 victory against the Warriors at the Benjamin Cardozo Classic in Queens on Jan. 2.
“Jose is a big part of our team,” Kamissoko said. “He’s one of the leaders. He can score. He can pass and he can rebound it.”
Perez’s presence not only gave Wings (7-0) immediate scoring help, but allowed it to reclaim control of the rebounding battle. Curtis (9-4) was limiting the Bronx school to just one shot and scoring in transition.
“For me it was defensive rebounding, taking charges,” Perez said.
Wings coach Billy Turnage said he expected a slow start and for Curtis’ physical style to bother his club out of the gate. His team hadn’t played a game in 10 days and his club was going to have to figure out how to play with Perez out of the lineup.
Wings was originally scheduled to play over Christmas at the Showcase At The Wood tournament in Newport News, Virginia. But it was told by the Virginia High School League that it would not sanction its games despite the two teams it was set to play having the green light from its governing body to compete against Wings.
The Wings club is not sanctioned this season for interstate competition by the NYSPHSAA after playing Virginia powerhouse Oak Hill in the televised and unsanctioned Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals in April. Turnage accepted the consequences.
“There was nothing we could do about it,” he said. “People keep asking me would you change it. To be honest with you I wouldn’t change it because 99 percent of my kids are never going to play on ESPN again. We followed what the PSAL told us to do.“
He watched the team’s new core play well against the Warriors. Kamissoko scored a game-high 22 points, including three treys. Kevin Saylor scored 16 points and point guard Malik Mooving dropped in 10. Samuel Majekodunmi lead Curtis with 13 points.
Curtis was as close as 54-51 with 1:57 to play in the third after a three by Christopher Fabozzi. Wings responded with transition layups from Saylor and Mooving and tip in at the buzzer from Kamissoko to take a 60-51 lead into the fourth. The Warriors never seriously threated again.
Turnage said the whole second half fed off the way his team closed things going into the break with Perez back on the floor.
“It was big for us in the second quarter to make a run tie the game at the half,” In the second quarter we came with more energy and more will. It still wasn’t pretty, but it was better than the first quarter.”