Jeffrey Short was preparing to reprise his role as John F. Kennedy’s leading scorer, rebounder, top defender and playmaker Friday afternoon when he saw an old familiar face in a red jersey and shorts.
It was Naquan Pierce, his running mate and good friend, the same Naquan Pierce who had missed Kennedy’s last seven games after breaking a school rule, the same Naquan Pierce who led the Knights to the PSAL Class AA city championship game last year and outplayed national recruit Josh Selby of Lake Clifton (Md.) in a recent non-league victory.
Short smiled and laughed.
“Let’s go,” he said.
The two, dubbed the PSAL’s Batman and Robin by assistant coach Star Jones, needed little time to grow reacquainted with one another, teaming up for 70 points in Kennedy’s impressive 92-81 road victory over Wadleigh. Pierce was brilliant in his return, scoring 37 points, dishing out 11 assists, swiping five steals and grabbing four rebounds. Free of bringing the ball up, Short was on target, too, scoring 33 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“Everybody was happy I was back,” Pierce said, “and I was the happiest.”
“He’s just Naquan,” Kennedy coach Johnny Mathis said. “He was on such a roll when this happened after we played down in Baltimore. This is the way he plays. It’s been killing him, sitting on the bench. Last Friday, at Thurgood Marshall … you should’ve seen him.”
Pierce came out with his trigger finger ready, dropping in 14 first-quarter points. He made his first shot, a pull-up 3-pointer in transition.
“He’s back,” Short thought to himself.
Pierce had 21 points by halftime and added another 10 in the fourth quarter to put the Tigers away. He hit three 3-pointers, but also scored inside among the Wadleigh trees. He hit mid-range jump shots and hypnotized the Tigers with head fakes and hesitation moves.
“I felt I had to do it, come back, prove a point, show people while I was out I wasn’t slacking,” he said. “I was still in the gym working hard.”
Karim Rowson led Wadleigh (13-5, 11-2 Manhattan AA) with 37 points and 11 rebounds, Trivante Bloodman added 15 points, David Burgos had 10, Tyrie Orosco nine and Malik Thomas five.
Short made sure Kennedy (17-2, 13-1 Bronx AA) stayed afloat without Pierce. He led the Knights to a 6-1 mark, which included wins over Bronx foes Gompers and Lehman and a non-league victory over Chaminade (L.I.). He was stoked to see his teammate, a combo guard who can handle pressure and dominate a game, playing again
“He can shoot, pass, score, do everything,” Short said.
Usually low-key, Pierce flashed a wide smile after the win. He said he missed those games after disrespecting a film class teacher.
“I’ve been apologizing ever since I broke the rule,” he said.” I guess she got sick of me coming by, asking can I play and saying I’m sorry.”
The one positive was Pierce’s absence allowed others, such as George Edandison, Ronar Cruz and Jonathan Mercedes, much-needed playing time. In the third quarter, when Wadleigh made its furious run, getting within eight points in a few occasions, the Knights’ complementary pieces held the Tigers off. Cruz and Mercedes each hit 3-pointers and Kyle McQueen scored four of his eight points.
“It was the other guys that killed us,” Wadleigh coach Mike Crump said.
Yet, it was Pierce who set the tone, Pierce who lessened the pressure on his teammates, Pierce who started every Kennedy run and stopped Wadleigh’s spurts. The win meant more than seeding purposes for the Knights. For one, it enabled them to stay a game ahead of Wings Academy, the only league opponent to beat them, in the loss column in Bronx AA. Two, Wadleigh had beaten JFK twice during the summer.
“I felt they were too confident,” Pierce said. “Me and Jeff, we wanted this win.”
©2010 Community News Group