Dashaun Wiggins saw the ball come out of James Blue’s fingertips and immediately thought rebound. Blue, Wiggins said, has a tendency to shoot long, and he twisted his right wrist, another sign the junior said, that it would come off the back rim.
He slightly nudged Kelvin Dixon, John F. Kennedy’s 6-foot-6 forward, and out-leaped him. Wiggins came away with the rebound, but in essence the game. He knocked down two free throws, sealing Wings Academy’s 80-78 victory over Kennedy at Bronx Regional HS. The win moves the Wings into first place in Bronx AA by their lonesome.
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” said junior forward Krystian Foriest, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. “It lets everybody know we’re back and we’re here to rule the Bronx.”
Ronald Baker led Wings (7-1) with 23 points, Wiggins added 15 points and Dylan Ennis followed with 14. Ross Vizcaino paced JFK (7-2) with 17 points, Naquan Pierce had 16, reserves Dixon and Elijah Spear each had 13 and Shea Spence nine.
Wiggins wasn’t at his best for much of the evening, picking up two early fouls after scoring four points. He mostly watched as the Wings built a large first-half lead. And when he returned, the dynamic guard struggled, misfiring from the perimeter, turning the ball over and having his shot rejected.
“I had to make up for it,” he said.
But down the stretch, when it counted the most, Wiggins, who finished with 15, was there, knocking down a crucial 3-pointer and sinking four free throws in the closing minutes. After losing four times in the regular season, twice to JFK, without Wiggins, the Wings won the Bronx Borough championship with him. And they have roared to a strong 7-1 start, punctuated by holding off Kennedy.
“Dashaun,” Foriest said, “always comes through for us. It shows he has a will to win. He doesn’t sulk or get down.”
Wings raced out to a 16-point second-quarter lead in customary fashion – by bombing away from the perimeter. The bigger Knights may have owned the paint – center Shea Spence blocked five shots in the opening quarter and eight altogether – but the Wings sank 10 3-pointers and beat JFK downcourt in transition.
Slowly, the Knights worked their way back into the game. Speedy guards Jeffrey Arzu and Naquan Pierce got into the lane, creating havoc. Ross Vizcaino, the senior forward with unlimited range, found his rhythm from behind the arc.
They scored the final seven points of the third quarter, Vizcaino hitting a trey, Pierce scoring inside, and Dixon banking in a runner, to get within six, 58-52. Vizcaino hit consecutive bombs early in the fourth quarter, one longer than the next, to cut it to a deuce, and Pierce got them even at 60 with a lefty lay-in with 6:40 remaining.
“We knew they were going to make their run,” Wings coach Billy Turnage said.
But Wings made the big plays down the stretch. Ennis sank consecutive treys, Wiggins nailed another one and Baker followed suit. JFK kept coming, cutting the deficit to three twice, including with 11.5 seconds remaining and Blue headed to the line for a 1-and-1.
“We get that rebound off the missed free throw,” Kennedy coach Johnny Mathis lamented, “we’re in the game right there.”
Wiggins, however, retrieved the carom, ending what was a chaotic finish.
“We won – that’s all that counts,” he said. “We’re an underrated team. People don’t expect us to beat Kennedy.”
Despite the big lead, Turnage had a feeling the result would be in the balance late. When asked his prediction over the weekend, he said the same thing. He would like his team to be able to finish off an opponent, even one as tough as Kennedy, better. But he also was pleased to leave with a victory and first place in his grasp.
“Anytime we play Kennedy it’s a war,” Turnagesaid. “It’s like Duke against North Carolina. It’s not going to be a blowout either way.”