When former New York Knicks all-star Anthony Mason passed away on February 28 due to congestive heart failure, the news would make an impact not just in the hearts and minds of many Knickerbocker fans.
Mason had begun his journey to the NBA at Springfield Gardens High School and it was there in 1983 where his legend began in helping the Golden Eagles hoist the PSAL city championship.
This recent group of Springfield Gardens players has kept the memory of Mason alive as the team captured the PSAL Class A championship on Saturday in a 58-54 victory over top-seed Frederick Douglass Academy at Baruch College. It was the first city title for the Golden Eagles since Mason and former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts teamed up on the floor 32 years ago.
“I felt like it was all for him. He was like a teammate on the floor and it was like a big advantage,” senior Karim Diouf said. “It was like 6 to 5. We got an extra teammate and it was him.”
Karim Diouf had 13 points to lead No. 2 seed Springfield Gardens (25-4)and handed Frederick Douglass Academy its first defeat since December 30, 2014 in Suncoast, Florida. It was contributors such as Joel Boyce (12 points) and Ian Howard that contributed plenty of tenacity on the defensive end
The season for Springfield Gardens will continue next Friday by taking on Albany Academy in the New York State Federation Class A semifinals held at the University at Albany.
Mason would lay the groundwork at Springfield Gardens in becoming a gritty, durable and hard-working player in his rise to professional stardom. Those positive attributes have been adopted wholeheartedly according to Kissoon, who powered the Golden Eagles with all of 12 of his points coming in the second half.
Mason was honored by a moment of silence by the entire Springfield Gardens team just moments before they took the court on Saturday.
“I used to see him on TV and he was known for his defense,” Kissoon said. “That was what was instilled inside of us. Our fighting spirit.”
Springfield Gardens coach Angelo Buono was confident his team had the means to take on a FDA team that won the Manhattan borough championship against ‘AA’ school W.H.E.E.L.S. His team showed an ability to overcome late second half deficits to win a quarterfinal match over Evander Childs and defeat Bedford Academy, 56-54, last week in the Class A semifinals.
“I had a dream we was going to win. I don’t know what it was but I had a good feeling about my team,” Buono said. “We have been in a lot of close games. I tell my team that we are battle tested.”
Kissoon, who averaged 15 points in the regular season, had not scored any points when Springfield Gardens went to the locker room tied at 24 at halftime. Kissoon came out as a reinvigorated player on the floor by scoring 9 points to help give his team a 41-33 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Senior forward Jaylin Montalvo would lead FDA (31-2) with 20 points but the opposition forced the Lions to take tough shots down the stretch. Springfield Gardens would answer when the pressure was on.
Daniel Charlton recovered a loose ball and hit an important 3-pointer with 5:11 left in regulation and Howard followed up with a put back to give the Golden Eagles a 47-40 advantage. Montalvo hit a runner on the lane to cut the deficit to three-points but Kissoon would hit a 3-pointer with 2:31 left to push the lead back to six points.
It could have been possible Springfield Gardens received a bit of divine support on Saturday. If you believe Mason was there in spirit, then he was quite close to watching his old high school become the city champions.
“A couple of people have mentioned that he could be an angel on our shoulder,” Buono said. “Well If he is there on us, Anthony, we’ll take you baby.”
MASPETH RISES TO WIN FIRST CLASS B CHAMPIONSHIP
Anastasia Bitis arrived last year to take over the boys developmental basketball program at Maspeth High school. Bitis was so pleased with the potential and unselfish play from her squad that she confidently petitioned the PSAL to promote the Argonauts to the varsity program.
Maspeth’s request would be turned down, but it was certainly worth the wait of a calendar year after what occurred after the final buzzer Saturday afternoon. The Argonauts would make school history in front of a raucous fan support by defeating Frederick Douglass Academy III, 57-42 in the PSAL Class B boys championship game at Baruch College.
“Once we started playing together, I actually called the PSAL and I told them we should not be a developmental team. But the rules is the rules,” Bitis said. “I told the boys this is just a way for us to learn how to play together, learn the system and next year is our year. I’ve said that since last year.”
It was the first school championship for No. 2 seed Maspeth (27-1) after opening its doors just four years ago. The only defeat for Maspeth came on the road against PSAL Class A program Erasmus Hall, 71-65, on November 20, 2014.
Second-seeded Maspeth (27-1) showed an unselfish attitude on the floor that has been a staple of the team’s success. Paolo Tamer lead the way with 13 points as Maspeth was patient in their offensive execution to make the extra pass and find the open man that caused four players to finish in double figures.
Maspeth began to break the game open in the first half as part of a 14-2 run to extend the lead to double digits. Michael Bugaj (12 points) finished plenty of buckets in transition and Tamer Tamer made an alley-oop pass from out of bounds to connect with Damian Piszcatowski (11 points) for a layup with two seconds left in the first half.
Maspeth would go into halftime a confident bunch with a 35-17 lead. FDA III (17-6), who went into the game a Cinderella team as the No. 20 seed, could only cut the deficit to 11 points midway in the second half.
Paolo Tamer had transferred from New York Harbor School in Governor’s Island prior to his junior year to team up with his brother Tamer Tamer on the court. Like his teammates, Paolo had to be patient with the offensive system implemented and he joked at times it was difficult to handle.
But the results for Maspeth has been quite positive as they prepare to take on Dwight on March 28 in the New York State Federation Class B semifinals at the University at Albany.
“This was our goal,” Paolo Tamer said. “We wanted to come here and wanted to take a ‘chip’. All we have been thinking about since day one.”