Jefferson was one game away from the Public School Athletic League’s Brooklyn Borough Final and Bud Pollard didn’t understand what was going on. In the biggest game of the season to that point, Jefferson started the first half of the game with almost no energy.
“I don’t know if it was because it’s Valentine’s Day, but we were in trouble early,” Pollard said. “We were playing like lovers. Pat looked like he was in love, like he was ready to go out on a date and I had to check Wilson’s jersey because he turned the ball over so much that I thought he might be playing for their team.”
Pollard got angry with his team and at halftime he let them know it. He wanted to lit a fire under their butts to try to get them to be more aggressive and focused on defense. It seemed to work because Pat Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and Devonte Wilson hit a big three in the final minute to lead Jefferson to a 67-64 victory over South Shore in the Brooklyn borough playoff semifinals in East New York on Friday.
“In the end they both stepped up,” Pollard said proudly. “That’s what it’s about — two senior guards they made mistakes, but at the end of the day they stepped up, made plays, and we won the game.”
Brown and Wilson agreed with Pollard’s assessment that the Orange Wave came out without any intensity in the first half. Brown suggested that it had to do with the snow and the fact that they couldn’t use the gym to practice on Thursday night.
“In the first half we played with no energy,” Brown said. “I think not being allowed to use the gym the day before hurt us. School was closed. We tried to come to the gym to get some practice in for today’s game, but they wouldn’t let us in the building.”
Their lack of energy was evident early as South Shore quickly jumped out to a 22-13 lead after the first quarter behind eight points from Ryan Preston and six from Doudmy Saint Hilaire. Brown and Wilson woke up a bit in the second quarter, but still trailed by seven going into halftime.
“We needed some practice,” Wilson said. “We needed to shoot around and get out there and get going. In the first half we came out and we weren’t in the game, but by the second half we started to get going. Luckily we didn’t let them get too far ahead in the first half. Once we started going we caught them in the second half.”
They certainly did and it started with strong defense as South Shore was held to just two field goals and eight points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds scored seven points, Daquaise Andrews added three and junior Akeem Adams hit a three at the buzzer to put Jefferson ahead 46-44 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was intense. The two teams were tied five different times and there were six different lead changes. Brown was leading the charge for Jefferson with success driving the lane. There were just 30 seconds left to play when he elected to pass to Wilson rather than penetrate again and Wilson came through with a three-pointer that put Jefferson up 65-62.
“I was feeling it,” Wilson said. “I was just waiting to knock it down. Pat was doing well penetrating, but they were starting to key on him so I told him next time to kick it to me. That’s what he did and the play worked. ”
That three was the difference in the game as Preston hit another layup for South Shore to pull within one and Brown hit a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds left to win it.
This will be the eighth consecutive time that Jefferson will play in the Brooklyn borough finals. They last won it two years ago against Boys and Girls and lost to Lincoln last season. There will be a rematch against Lincoln in the borough finals on Sunday at City College after the Railsplitters beat Brooklyn Collegiate 82-67 on Thursday.
“We want to play Lincoln because we just lost to them,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be intense, we need to play aggressive, play smart. If we play together we can stop them.”