For the better part of three quarters, Newark Vocational's fullcourt pressure, active halfcourt trap and overall feistiness had a taller Barringer team largely playing into its hands.
By the fourth quarter, though, Barringer was executing better ball protection and thus finding its big men inside more readily. At that point, the Blue Bears had tied up those hands and were largely playing over Vocational's head.
"the big boys started to impose their will," Vocational head coach Akbar Cook said. "That's why said let’s do everything in the frontcourt, because if it gets back there, it's gonna be a problem. We couldn’t compete with their size."
Perhaps not for 32 minutes, but in selective spurts, the Eagles stood tall. They watched their nine-point halftime lead dissolve into a five-point deficit with 2:20 to play, but rebounded (literally) down the stretch behind senior Tarell Stokes and freshman Quayon Williams-King to post a 61-59 win Friday at Newark Vocational.
Williams tied the game at 55-55 on a putback with 1:57 remaining and pulled Vocational to within 59-57 with a bucket in the lane with 1:03 to go. Junior Alfonzo Anderson knotted the score at 59-59 on a one-handed floater with 33 seconds left and Stokes scored the game-winner 27 ticks later on a putback off a missed jumper by Williams-King.
That rebound and basket by Stokes thrust the 6-4 senior into the unusual position of hero. He had not scored more than four points in any previous game this season, yet had that many in the fourth quarter and a season-high six points for the game, along with two rebounds, three steals and a block.
"When the shot goes up, crash the boards, and go up with two hands," Stokes said. "I had to come down with that ball."
Barringer had :06 left to attempt a shot following Stokes' basket, but Newark Vocational forced a jump ball with :01 to go, with the Blue Bears maintaining possession. A shot from the right elbow was attempted following the inbound, but fell short as time expired.
The Eagles (10-7) snapped a two-game losing streak, but did so with a hectic late surge that might not have been predicted after the first three quarters. Vocational had set the tone of the game in those first 24 minutes with pesky defensive play and the offensive skills of Anderson.
The 6-1 junior scored a game-high 22 points by demonstrating both his perimeter range and his ability to dribble into the lane and draw contact. Anderson was 11 of 12 from the free throw line, including 8 of 8 in the first half as his Eagles opened a 33-24 lead.
"We thought we were gonna take over the game. We were up and playing good, but then they came back," Anderson said. "You can't underestimate any team in high school."
Anderson knows that now, but has a feeling he and his teammates may have done just that after forcing 21 turnovers in the third quarter.
"They came back because they played harder than us; they wanted it more," Anderson said of Barringer. "That would have been a bad loss."
Stokes agreed with Anderson about Vocational's lack of urgency in the fourth quarter. He wasn't surprised at all by Barringer's persistence, only disappointed that his club had not anticipated that desire.
"They had more intensity. We fell back because we had the lead going into the fourth quarter and just thought we'd keep it,'' Stokes said. "They came out harder than us and we had to fight back."
Darius Williams, a 6-7 junior forward, dropped in 11 of his 14 points and 6-6 senior forward Umar Frost added eight of his 10 in the second half to spearhead Barringer's comeback effort. Frost had opened the final quarter with a strong putback to draw Barringer to within 45-43, and Williams tied the game for the first time since the first quarter on a dunk off a low-post feed from sophomore Edwin Toledo.
"They're not gonna quit. It ain't like their scared," Cook said. "It came down, not to X's and O's, but to who wanted it more. Would their bigs take over or would we scrap more? That's what it came down to, we scrapped it out."
One of the most visible purveyors of that scrappy attitude was reserve junior guard Jonathan Roman, who came away with a team-high five steals to go along with his five points and three rebounds. He was an instant pick-me-up for the Eagles with three points, two rebounds and two steals in the first quarter.
Barringer led, 8-4, in the first 3:08, but trailed by the end of the period, 14-13, largely on account of Roman's energetic play.
"I went with the smaller lineup and sat my big guys down," Cook said. "I decided I wanted a lineup that wanted it more. Jonathan Roman came up big-time for us. He was everywhere."
Senior guard Khayri Smith scored 15 points to lead Barringer, while sophomore guard As-Saamad Magwood contributed 10. Barringer outrebounded Newark Vocational, 25-16, but also committed 27 turnovers.
Barringer (14-7) 13 11 17 18 59
Newark Vocational ( 10-7) 14 19 12 16 61
Smith 5-1-2-15, Magwood 2-2-0-10, Toledo 01-3-6, Williams 5-0-4-14, Frost 5-0-3-13, Jenkins 0-0-1-1, Mickens 0-0-0-0.
Anderson 4-1-11-22, Green 1-0-1-3, Stith 1-3-0-11, Stokes 3-0-0-6, Morais, 1-0-0-2, Roman 1-0-3-5, Harell 0-0-0-0, Cradle 1-0-2-4, Willliams-King 4-0-0-8.
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS