Eagle Academy coach Ryan Queen expects more from his team this team of year.
Sure his group staved of a fourth quarter rally by Curtis, one of the top teams on Staten Island, for an important 75-68 win at the Cardozo Classic last Saturday. In Queen’s mind there shouldn’t have been a need to do that as Eagle lead by 14 points in the third quarter and let the Warriors back in the game. His team hasn’t played a complete game since late December.
“I’m looking for growth and I’m not seeing it,” Queen said. “It’s immaturity. Either we start slow an pick up the rest of the game or we slack off he rest of he game with a big lead.”
Luckily for Eagle senior guard Shane Neal (15 points) didn’t let the victory slip away. Curtis (12-6) tied the score at 59-59 on 3-pointer by Samuel Majekodunmi with 5:34 to go in the game, but never took the lead.
“I told myself I had to dial in,” said Neal, a three-year varsity player. “That’s what our coach always says, to dial in. That’s what we did today.
Sophomore Tyrese Crosdale, who has 12 pointts, scored on an inbounds play and Neal hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Eagle back up 67-59 with 4:04 remaining. Two buckets by freshman forward Nelson Samuels (10 points) put the game out of reach late.
“I’ve been expecting that all season from him,” Queen said of Neal. “He just hasn’t been hitting. Late in the game you want your senior to come through and hit a big shot.”
Eagle (17-6), the second place team in the Bronx, is known for being a strong 3-point shooting team. It was its stroke from behind the arc that got it the lead. Malcolm Martinez, who scored 12 points, connected on three treys during a 15-3 Eagle run that put it up 25-12 with 4:20 to go in the first half.
“That’s what we do, we are a shooting team” star sophomore guard Marquis Dubose said. “I feel like that is our best strength.”
The Eagles are also a very young team that relies on sophomores and freshman to fill in around its veteran core. It used its size to disrupt Curtis in the paint with Samuels and talented junior Teshaun Beckles controlling the glass. Its speed was a factor late when fast break baskets quickly defused the Warriors attempted to rally again. Adeola Latunji led Curtis with 22 points and James Cocozello added 15.
The victory in an important one for Eagle, which already beat Staten Island leader Susan Wagner, as far as playoffs seeding is concerned. It wasn’t exactly that fashion in which to earn it, but they will certainly take it.
“This was a very big win,” Neal said. “In the playoff [seeding] this makes us over Curtis. When they say, who should they should pick, Eagle or Curtis?’ They now have to pick Eagle.”