The defending PSAL city champions were given a good scare, but their perfect league season continues.
The Wings Academy boys’ basketball team defeated WHEELS 56-49, despite their worst first half of basketball all season on a Class AA crossover game at Mott Hall on Jan. 4. WHEELS, the Manhattan division leader, ended the first half with a buzzer beating three, banked in by senior guard Emilio Cerda who finished with 11 points.
“They were sacred,” said Wings coach Billy Turnage of his team. “That’s the first time we’ve been down at the half all year long.”
However, a different team walked out of the Wings’ locker room after the break. Led by senior Kevin Saylor and junior Jose Perez, Wings dominated the third quarter, outscoring WHEELS 17-6.
“In the first half we came out lackadaisical,” Saylor said. “Coach was pressing on us, telling us we have to come out hard in the second half.”
Saylor finished the game with 16 points, including six first quarter points that kept Wings in the game. Perez added 16 points of his own by giving WHEELS (10-4) a hard time in the paint. He also grabbed nine big rebounds
“I just was trying to open up the game, where I could go inside out or outside in,” Perez said.
Perez provides Wings (14-0) with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. His aggression in the second half, in addition to Saylor’s consistent play and a big game from junior Xavier Junkere, was enough to get Wings over the hump in the second half. Turnage, however, wasn’t too impressed with the ugly win.
“We only played four and a half minutes of Wings’ basketball,” he said. “That’s not good enough to win anything. Mentally we weren’t prepared today. As a coach I have to take partial blame for that. But at this point in the year there shouldn’t be any mental lapses.”
Wings struggled early on the offensive end, letting their frustration affect it defensive effort. Despite starting the game on an 8-2 run, Wings quickly lost it groove and the overwhelming message from their bench was that they were playing lazy defense.
When asked about how prepared the team is for the playoffs, coach Turnage said that his team’s performance fluctuates.
“It’s on and off and that’s the scary part,” he said. “I think we’re good enough to win it all again, but I also think mentally we’re not where we need to be and we could lose our first playoff game.”
The win guarantees Wings, the defending PSAL city champions, a top four seed in the playoffs. Now it has to play like one.
“Playoff basketball brings out a different animal,” Turnage said. “As long as we hang our hats on defense and share the basketball, I like our chances.”