Jessie Govan needed a minute to let the reality set it – Wings Academy is finally city champs.
The Georgetown-bound center had finished shedding tears and sat on the team’s bench in a daze looking up at the Madison Square Garden scoreboard well after the horn. He had to be sure it was true. Fourth-seeded Wings beat No. 2 and defending champion Benjamin Cardozo 50-46 in the PSAL Class AA boys’ basketball final a on March 13th. It is the school’s first ‘AA’ crown and the first by a Bronx school since Kennedy in 2005. The title is exactly what Govan transferred to Wings from St. Mary’s (L.I.) two years ago.
“Once the final buzzer went off I couldn’t believe we could call ourselves PSAL champions,” the 6-foot-10 Govan said. “It’s just so surreal.”
Govan earned MVP honors by scoring 17 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. He was the answer when Cardozo cut the Wings lead to 45-43 with 1:28 to go in the game. Govan scored the final five Wings points starting with a two-handed slam and ending with him making 3 of 4 free throws. The last one came with 5.3 seconds to go to provide the final margin.
It helped Hofstra-bound point guard Desure Buie (six points) make good on his promise to coach Billy Turnage as a sophomore that he would bring home a title before graduation. Turnage was playing in his first final have five semifinal defeats. He broke down after beating top-seeded Thomas Jefferson in the final four a week ago. He was all smiles following this victory because the weight had been lifted a bit and he had confidence that this group was not going to let a victory against Cardozo get away.
”I felt once we got over that hurdle, I really felt like we were going to win the championship,” Turnage said.
Wings (26-2) blew a nine-point lead to the Judges (29-3) with less than two minutes to play in the final of the SNY Invitational on Jan. 24. It stayed tough in city title game and cut every Judges attempt at a rally short before the Queens’ school could take control of the game. Carodozo tied the score at 28-28 on a three by Rashond Salnave with 3:11 to go in the third. Randy Corporan connected on a hugh 3-pointer during a 9-2 spurt that put Wings back up 37-30 going into the fourth.
“We learned from that game,” Buie said. “Today we slowed down the ending and Jessie had a big basket.”
Kevin Saylor chipped in 10 points for Wings. Aaron Walker led the Judges with 14 points, five rebound and six block and Salnave had 11 points and seven boards. Wings advances to the New York State Federation tournament at UAlbany. It is scheduled to play the PHSAA winner at 9 p.m. on March 27.
Turnage said winning was everything he and everyone in his program had ever dream of, but he learned it was about more than them. He’s been greeted with well wishes by train workers, in grocery stores and on the bus by people he’s never met before in the Bronx Park community around Wings.
“That’s when I realized how big this thing was,” Turnage said. “I was kind of selfish in the aspect of thinking it was only us and not realizing how much of an impact these guys have in the community.”