Kristian Foriest spent his Saturday night talking basketball, telling Deonte Houston how important the junior point guard was to the Wings Academy basketball team’s success. Sunday evening, Wings coach Billy Turnage hammered home the point during a fourth-quarter timeout, demanding the pass-first Houston take over down the stretch.
Consider it the latest step in the basketball education of Houston.
He finally got the message, scoring six of his eight points – to go along with eight assists – in the fourth quarter to lead Wings to a come-from-behind victory over Forest Hills, 60-57, in the PSAL Tip-Off Classic at LIU.
Foriest led Wings with 13 points and six rebounds, Jabriel Blue had 10 and Andy Fall nine. Maurice Harkless paced Forest Hills (1-1) with 21 points and Nick Padgett added 10.
Houston isn’t alone in his inexperience. The Wings (1-1) are full of players wet behind the ears. Foriest is the only returning starter, the only returning player, in fact, to have seen many minutes last year. Ronald Baker and Drimir Ferguson graduated. Dashaun Wiggins and Dylan Ennis left for prep school.
The Wings are littered with newcomers such as Houston, Ian Vasquez and Jordan Aaron (a safety transfer form Bronx Leadership) and seniors, like the Blue brothers, seniors Jabriel and James, looking to make a name for themselves after waiting their turn.
It is still a similar Wings team, based on guard play, 3-point shooting and full-court pressing. The Bronx school trailed early, 19-11, but rallied for a 30-29 halftime lead. It went back and forth from there, the two sides trading leads like investment bankers trade stocks. Wings took its first lead in the third quarter on a Fall slam. It went ahead, 54-48, on the strength of a Houston layup and Jabriel Blue 3-pointer. Forest Hills, however, came charging back, getting even at 56 after two Harkless free throws.
Foriest scored uncontested underneath with 1:03 left to give Wings the lead for good. After Harkless split a pair at the line, Turnage called timeout. It was then that he basically ordered Houston to take command.
The junior responded by beating his man off the dribble, hanging in the air and softly dropping in a running floater.
Forest Hills had one last chance, but “fumbled it away,” as coach Ben Chobhaphand described the game-tying opportunity. The Rangers didn’t get off a shot.
After starting quick, the defending Queens champion wilted. Like Wings, Chobhaphand is working in several new players, including four starters. Harkless, the one lone holdover, was making just his first start. Forest Hills is counting on juniors Padgett, Denzel Dulin, Shawn Branch and Antoine Tutt in addition to sophomore Rudy Collins.
While the season is in just its second week, the victory was particularly important.
Wings began 0-1, when Truman pulled off a shocking 77-72 upset last Thursday.