Jose Perez was getting an uneasy case of deja vu with the PSAL Bronx championship hanging in the balance.
The Wings junior guard was in the stands when Kennedy upset the Wings on a buzzer beater to win the borough championship at York College. That was in his mind as he stepped to the free throw line with a chance to put his team up three with 11.9 second to play in the same game at the same gym.
“We remembered and we didn’t want that to happen again,” Perez said. “I was thinking about it when I was standing at the free throw line.”
It locked his mind in and he made both. Kennedy missed a good look at a three on the next possession before Boubacar Kamissoko sealed the a 70-65 win and a stellar performance with a steal and two more free throws at York College on Feb. 14.
It is the defending city and state Federation champions’ fourth straight borough crown, but coach Billy Turnage wasn’t thinking about the past or even the win after the game because his team has biggest goals.
“I was more or less [upset] with these guys because we were playing selfish basketball,” he said. “One pass fire, whoever got it tried to attack. We can’t win that way [consistently]. In the second half we played glimpse of the basketball we have to play to have success.”
His team trailed by as many as 11 during a sloppy first half and 35-28 at the break. Wings quickly changed the momentum with a 14-0 run to start the third quarter. Kamissoko, who scored a game-high 22 points, started the spurt with consecutive treys and Malik Diallo layup gave the Wings a 42-35 lead with 3:13 to play in the frame.
“Coach wanted me to take more shots, be more aggressive and step in against their high 1-3-1 zone,” Kamissoko said.
Kennedy retook the lead on a bucket, but Justin Batiz (17 points) with six seconds left in the third. Malik Mooving (11 points) made up for his turnover with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put Wings up 51-47. Perez had 15 points and Kevin Saylor added 10.
The Knights took their last lead on a three-pointer by Batiz that made it 61-60 with 3:19 to play in the game. Wing responded with a 6-0 run, including a three from the top of the key by Kamissoko to put his team ahead 66-61 with 40 seconds to play in the game. It was his biggest shot during a superb performance.
“I thought he played an unbelievable second half,” Turnage said.
A game that ended well certainly didn’t start that way for Wings. It was getting beat on the glass by a long and athletic Kennedy team. Koloba Ballo, Bakary Camera and Mahammado Kajakhe all added 12 points for the Knights.
Wings’ turnovers and poor passing turned all too often into points for the Knights. The Wings know it can’t repeat that kind of play in the city playoffs if it wants to repeat as champs.
“If we start off sluggish we are going to be down 20 quick at the end of the first half,” Perez said. “We are the PSAL and state champs. Everyone is going to come for us. No one is going to take us easy.”