Wings turns Lincoln Blue
Senior guard helps Bronx school end Railsplitters’ four-year run atop city
By Zach Braziller
James Blue caught the outlet pass and saw nothing but open court in front of him. The 5-foot-10 guard sprinted to the hoop, sprung high in the air and threw down a windmill slam, just his second dunk of the year.
It was the final nail in Lincoln’s coffin.
No. 3 Wings Academy ended the sixth-seeded Railsplitters’ four-year title run with a 78-59 drubbing in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals at St. John’s University Sunday afternoon.
“They were the champs, I wanted to do something spectacular to end it,” Blue said.
Wings (24-5), which meets No. 2 Boys & Girls in the semifinals Tuesday, has been spectacular for two months, winning of 18 of its last 20 since an 83-73 loss to Wadleigh Dec. 18.
After a slow start, the Wings ran roughshod over the Coney Island dy-namo. They led 31-24 at halftime, quickly extended it to a 38-26 advantage and never looked back, the lead remaining in double figures the entire fourth quarter.
“We did what we’ve been doing since we lost to Wadleigh,” Wings coach Billy Turnage said. “We’ve been playing with incredible intensity, incredible passion and heart and desire.”
Blue was paramount to the victory, limiting Lincoln star Shaquille Stokes (25 points) to 11 points through three quar-ters. He also scored 19 points, 14 more than his season average. The senior has come on of late offensively after a quiet regular season.
“He was hesitant to shoot the basket-ball and I said we can’t play four-on-five,” Turnage said. “He really worked on his mechanics in the gym and it’s starting to show.”
Blue’s offensive transformation began in the borough playoffs and has contin-ued up until now. He has begun to drive the ball to the basket with conviction while also taking open jump shots when they present themselves. Opposing de-fenses have focused on guards Jordan Aaron and Deonte Houston and forward Krystian Foriest, leaving Blue open.
“I just got more confidence in my shooting and it’s going well for me,” said Blue, who is averaging 14 points per game this postseason after managing just five during the regular season.
He wasn’t alone. Aaron also scored 19 points. The unheralded frontcourt made an impact. Amdy Fall blocked six shots, Foriest had five points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Del Lewis had six points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Lincoln (17-10) had trouble keeping the speedy trio of Aaron, Blue and Houston out of the paint and failed to take advan-tage of their size advantage inside.
“Everything, from rebounding to shooting to hustle plays, they just out-played us,” said Lincoln forward Kamari Murphy, who had 11 points and 10 re-bounds. “For me, it’s kind of disappoint-ing, but I know for coach and the guys that have been from the beginning, it’s worse. They’re used to being at the Gar-den and playing for the city champion-ship.”
Turnage said he drew criticism from friends for scheduling the Railsplitters late in the season. The Wings led by 17, but fell 88-84. He felt that experience paid dividends.
“That Lincoln mystique can be a kil-ler,” he said. “That non-league game really helped us against them.”
The Wings played down the signifi-cance of ending Lincoln’s reign. Reaching their first city championship game at Madison Square Garden – with just one more victory – is far more important.
“If we celebrate now, we’re done on Wednesday and that’s not what we came here for,” Turnage said.
“We just want to go to the Garden, that’s all we want,” Aaron added. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we’re just gonna go hard and play our game.”