KIPP NYC wasn’t going let up in the closing minutes. It came too far to do so, so it grinded its way all the way to the end.
The top-seeded Bulldogs completed a perfect league season by handling No. 4 Jane Addams, 95-82 to win the Public School Athletic League Class B boys’ basketball championship on March 13 at St. Francis College. It sent their talented group of seniors out in fitting fashion.
“I’ve been waiting for this for four years,” senior Jae Len Hartsfield said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”
It was sweet redemption for KIPP NYC, after bowing out in a second round upset just a year ago. This talented KIPP roster finally came together under first-year head coach Craighton Barry.
“Chemistry beats talent every day,” Hartsfield said. “Without [Barry], I don’t think we never would have made it this far.”
Formerly a league official, Barry led his group of seniors to a 21-0 league record and a title. He credits his players for developing the perfect chemistry and a major improvement on the defensive side this season.
“I see the game differently than most people, and it’s just getting the kids to trust you, and getting them to understand how the game is played,” Barry said. “The difference is, as far as I’m concerned, is the understanding on how to play defense. Defensive pressure, understanding how to work together, and rebounding together.”
Seniors Xavier Nunez and Hartsfield had big performances in the final. Nunez scored 25 points with four three-pointers, while Hartsfield dropped 17.
It was a junior who took home the honors for the Bulldogs. Christian Sturdivant scored a game-high 26 points to win most valuable player honors.
“Christian has just a good feel for the game,” Barry said. “He can do pretty much everything for us. I’m actually glad to have him back for next year.”
KIPP quickly took the lead from the opening tip and never looked back. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 27-14 advantage after one. Sturdivant and Nunez combined for 36 points in the half, as they helped their team built a 52-33 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs were always several steps ahead of the Jaguars, as they raced up and down the court with ease on the fastbreak. KIPP limited its mistakes for much of the game. KIPP built a 75-50 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Jane Addams didn’t quit.
A 15-3 run by the Jaguars early in the final period made things interesting. They eventually cutting their deficit to eight with less than a minute left, but the Bulldogs held on for the win by fighting to the end.
The Bulldogs advance to the state Federation tournament where it faces NYSAISAA winner Collegiate in the semifinals March 19 at the Times Union Center in Albany.