ALBANY – Courtney Solomon has a new job this weekend after the junior guard was caught breaking curfew Friday night for trying to sneak down to the hotel lobby for a late-night snack.
“He’s the manager now,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said. “He had to carry the bags, all the manager responsibilities for the weekend.”
But the seldom-used guard, so anonymous his name was wrong in the box score, played a much greater role Saturday with 14 points off the bench to lead Boys & Girls to a 66-54 win against St. Raymond in the New York State Federation Class AA semifinal at the Times Union Center.
The Kangaroos advance to Sunday’s final to meet Mount Vernon, which received a bye. Boys & Girls, which won a third straight PSAL title last week, is seeking its first-ever Federation title.
“I try not to put too much pressure on the kids, but to me I think it’s a little bigger than winning that third city championship only because its something you don’t have,” Lovelace said.
Solomon figured having the munchies would also mean a permanent seat on the Kangaroos bench Saturday, at least that’s what Lovelace told him before punishing him during the morning walkthrough.
“I ran him like crazy in the walkthrough today,” Lovelace said. “He just ran the whole time, 200 pushups, wall-sits this morning, crab walking. I told him you’re done, you won’t even get dressed.”
Lovelace changed her mind later in the afternoon. It was Solomon’s first offense and he’s been a hard worker throughout the season, she rationalized.
Still, Lovelace wasn’t telling Solomon about her change of heart until she looked down the bench early in the third quarter.
“I didn’t think I was going to play at all, but when she called me to the table, I didn’t hesitate,” Solomon said. “I ran to the table.”
Lovelace knew Solomon was a solid shooter and could force St. Raymond out of its zone. St. Anthony’s (NJ) transfer Rashad Andrews played that role at the Garden last week, but this time he was 2-of-10 from the field.
Solomon delivered immediately, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as Boys & Girls (25-6) took control of the game. He also went 6-of-7 from the line, helping the ‘Roos keep the Ravens at bay.
“That’s what we call him – IO, instant offense,” Wesley Myers said.
While the Kangaroos didn’t shoot the ball particularly well – they connected on 36.5 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range – the PSAL champions forced St. Raymond (21-10) into 21 turnovers and made the Ravens play at an uncomfortable pace.
“I don’t think we did a good job of slowing it down and getting the ball to [Daniel] Dingle,” St. Raymond coach Oliver Antigua said. “We kind of speed up, took 10 threes, which is too many threes for us. That was not our game plan.”
Dingle, the Temple-bound forward, had 17 points and 12 rebounds in his final high school game.
“You always try to look for the good side, the positive side, all the happy moments you have with your teammates, coaches, the whole school,” Dingle said as he reflected on the end of his stellar high school career.
Junior guard Shane Rector also had 17, while Iowa State-signee Kerwin Okoro had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Larry Graves, who was instrumental during the Ravens postseason run, only played seven minutes because of a sprained ankle.
“They’ve been a great group to coach, they really sacrificed for each other and the team and they brought a city championship back to St. Raymond,” Antigua said. “It’s a special group in my heart.”
Leroy (Truck) Fludd had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Myers had 14 points for Boys, which never trailed the rest of the way.
But it was the Kangaroos newest manager who provided the spark.
“To be honest, I told the kid when I shook his hand you won the game for your team,” Antigua said. “He was the difference in the game, if you think about it.”
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