Billy Turnage finally get to shed tears of joy after a semifinal game.
The ninth-year Wings boys’ basketball coach had fallen five times in the PSAL final four before finally breaking through with a senior class that guaranteed him a title before they graduated. The years of emotion overcame Turnage after fourth-seeded Wings held off No, 1 Thomas Jefferson 83-73 in the Class AA semifinals last Saturday at Lehman College. He began tearing up as he thought about the journey and the heartache that came before this happy moment.
“It’s just for all my kids who played for me before this, my coaches,” Turnage said. “It just feels good.”
He has his Division-I duo to thank for the chance to play defending champion Benjamin Cardozo 1 p.m. March 14 at Madison Square for the crown. Dozo handed Wings a heart-break loss in the final of SNY Invitational in early February.
Georgetown-bound center Jessie Govan scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Wings (25-2) against Jefferson(26-4). Point guard Desure Buie, a Hofstra commit, had 25 points, five assists, four steals and was a perfect 14 of 14 from the free throw lines. Wings shot 37-for-41 from the charity stripe in the game. They wanted to extend their own careers and give Turnage his chance to win a title as well.
“I’ve never seen him cry,” said Govan, who transferred in from St. Mary’s (L.I.) as a junior. “I know how emotional he is. It’s his first championship he gets to play for. Hopefully it is the first championship he wins.”
Wings, which trailed 11-1 in the first quarter rode Govan in the fourth. The 6-foot-10 Govan scored eight straight points to give the Wings a 69-62 lead with 1:39 to go in the game. His presence in the paint turned Jefferson into jumper shooters all too often and the Orange Wave never got into rhythm from the outside. All three of Jefferson’s forwards fouled out.
“I think Jessie was dominant whole game.” Buie said. “He picked us up when we weren’t scoring. We got the ball inside to him and he made plays.”
Govan wouldn’t have been in position to push his team to victory without a first half surge that saw contributions up and down the roster. Wings out scored Jefferson 26-5 over the first and second quarters to grab a 26-18 lead before halftime. Efrain Dejesus and Kevin Saylor both hit big threes and Jamar Brown provided a big lift off the bench. Jaquan McKennon led Jefferson with 24 points and Shamorie Ponds added 21.
Turnage didn’t let himself enjoy the victory until the closing seconds because as he put it, his team has found “every conceivable way to lose a game in the final four.” He finally let his guard down with 3.8 seconds left and was hugged by his players. A weight had been lifted, but the journey was not complete.
“I knew if we didn’t get over this hurdle of the semifinals that the doubts would continue and they knew that,” Turnage said. “This is another step for us. We didn’t come into this season we just want to advance past the semis, but we knew we had to get past this point to compete for the city title.”