Wings Academy says its growth can be determined by its relentlessness and resilience. By the team’s willingness to fight for one another from start to finish, no matter the deficit or how poorly the Wings may be playing.
Consider Sunday afternoon’s comeback victory over Curtis in the Aviator Winter Clash the latest example.
Wings closed with a 13-1 run, impressively knocking off the Warriors, 49-44, heading into Tuesday’s first meeting with fierce rival John F. Kennedy.
“Our basketball IQ is growing exponentially,” Wings coach Billy Turnage said. “We’re getting game experience, that’s the biggest thing. You want to continue to build and play your best basketball come playoff time, and I think we’re going to do that.”
Krystian Foriest led Wings (8-3) with 15 points and seven rebounds, Jordan Aaron added 12 and four assists and Deonte Houston had eight points and five assists. James Timmins paced Curtis (12-2) with 17 points.
Turnage expected the Wings to take time to jell. Foriest was the only returner to receive playing time last year. Earlier in the season, the Wings may have folded when facing a fourth-quarter deficit. But against Curtis, trailing 43-36 midway through the final stanza, the Bronx school came storming back.
Aaron started the run with a 3-pointer from the left wing, Foriest added a free throw, Aaron hit two more at the line and Houston gave Wings the lead for good with a driving layup with 1:05 remaining. Del Lewis (nine rebounds) followed with a slam and Aaron hit two free throws to ice it.
“In the beginning of the season, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off,” Foriest said. “We’re coming together. Everybody is starting to click. It shows we’re maturing.”
Turnage credited Wings’ recent trip to Virginia for his young players’ maturation. They bonded during the visit down south in winning the Potomac Holiday Tournament crown.
“The holiday trip did a world of good,” Turnage said. “I always think it builds camaraderie and togetherness, which is excellent.”
Curtis, meanwhile, is headed in the other direction after getting out to a 12-0 start. The Warriors dropped the Bayshore Christmas Classic (Holmel, N.J.) final to Staten Island rival McKee/Staten Island Tech. To compound matters, they managed just one Timmins free throws over the final 5:28 against Wings, taking several ill-advised shots and committing numerous turnovers.
“In order to win a game like that you can’t make unforced errors,” Curtis coach Rich Buckheit said. “Right now we’re in a little bit of a personality rut and we’re trying to be as positive as we can.”
Wings, on the other hand, heads into Tuesday’s showdown with Kennedy, the Bronx AA leader, soaring, winners of five of its last six and seven of nine.
Roles have begun to be established. Houston has taken command at the point, Foriest has emerged in the paint and Aaron has found his niche on the perimeter, in addition to the Blues brothers, James and Jabriel, and glue guy Lewis at both ends of the floor.
How far the Wings have come, however, won’t be known until Tuesday night.