After a crushing 56-54 loss to rival Wings Academy in last year’s Bronx Borough Championship, Eagle Academy head coach Ryan Queen vowed that 2018 would be the year his program would end Wings’ dominance. But on Saturday at Queens College, after falling behind by 20 points in the second quarter and trailing 31-17 at halftime, Eagle bore the look of a dejected squad while their division rival was well positioned to capture a sixth straight Bronx title.
Then came the speech. Queen implored his team to not place too much focus on X’s and O’s, and instead just put forth energy and effort. His words resonated as Eagle held Wings to three points in the third quarter, forced a 45-45 tie at the end of regulation and went on to earn a thrilling 62-59 double overtime win for their first ever Borough Championship.
“I’m not used to seeing my team play that way,” said an emotional Queen following the draining victory. “Our energy was negative at the beginning of the game because I was a little down after falling so far behind. They look at me as a father figure, so if I let something effect me, it’s going to effect them.”
Eagle senior guard Floyd Samuels, whose 12 points augmented his twin brother’s, forward Nelson Samuels’ game-high 20-points, said sheer will was the difference. “After losing a close game to them last year, we were determined not to lose again. “We weren’t going to go home without the championship.”
The win permeated throughout the Eagle school community in attendance. “I think it is an amazing feeling,” said Eagle’s principal Hector Velazquez. “They could have folded but played smart in the second half and exhibited perseverance, something we try and instill in all of our scholars.”
Conversely, Turnage said Wings wasn’t mentally ready for Eagle’s run. “We lost this game from the neck up – point blank,” he bemoaned. Now Eagle enters the city-wide playoffs as the No.7 seed while Wings is seeded No.12.
The city’s No.1 seed, South Shore, showed why they are the favorite, easily dismissing No. 6 seed Boys and Girls High in the Brooklyn Borough Championship, 72-52, led by junior center Isaiah Richards and junior point guard Dwight Davis Jr, who scored 17-points each. Tall, long, talented and well coached, South Shore put on a clinic, going up 17-2 in the first quarter, extending the margin to 41-17 at the half, and opening up a 67-32 lead in the third quarter.
The Viking’s coach, Shawn Mark, said the victory was emblematic of the team’s growth after losing to Lincoln in last year’s Borough Championship game. “Most of these guys have been playing together since they were in middle school,” he noted. “A year ago we weren’t ready to beat a team like Lincoln. We want to stay humble but now I think we can beat anyone.”