By Danny Wild
NEW YORK – It was the rematch of heavyweights we’d been looking forward to for a month, and Kemba Walker delivered the knockout punch. Over and over and over.
Who’s better than Walker in this basketball-crazed city? The UConn-bound Rice senior scorched No. 18 St. Raymond with a career-high 39 points – including six heartbreakers in the final few minutes – to hand the Ravens an 87-80 loss in front of an enormous crowd at Fordham University.
Yes, Fordham – this regular season match-up drew such big attention, it was moved from Rice to Rose Hill just to accommodate the fans.
Kemba again was worth the price of admission. Back on Jan. 13, Walker scored a then-career-best 29 points to hand St. Ray an 81-74 overtime loss in the Bronx. On Saturday, he bested that performance, without the help of overtime, and by 10 points.
The 6-foot-0 Rice star scored six of the Raiders’ final seven points in a battle with the Bronx’s best. Both teams have, at times, been ranked the top team in the state by MaxPreps, but with both meetings, it’s been Walker who decided the final score.
"I was excited, I am always excited to play St. Raymond's," Walker told the New York Daily News. "I have some friends there, but I knew that because we beat them earlier this year they would come out hard against us."
Kemba was right about that, too. St. Raymond busted out a 19-9 lead after the first eight minutes and held Rice against the wall at halftime, up by three.
Then Kemba showed up. Walker began the second half with a drive to bring Rice back to within one before the Raiders reeled off a 15-9 run to take the lead. Rice outscored St. Raymond 15-4 to begin the fourth quarter, thanks to eight points from Walker.
St. Ray shot back with a 16-5 run and pulled to within three points when Darryl Bryant nailed a jump shot with about a minute remaining. Walker took it back down court, ran the shot clock to zero and hit a layup to keep the lead in tact. The senior then raced back, snatched a defensive rebound, drew a foul, and sank both fatal free throws with 11 seconds to play for the win.
Dorvell Carter and Durand Scott each had 16 for Rice, while Bryant led St. Raymond with 27 points and Omari Lawrence added 22.
Walker seemed intrigued at the thought of beating St. Raymond a third time this season – for the city championship, perhaps.
"I think it could be (a preview)," Walker half-jokingly told the News. "We will see them again in the playoffs, maybe twice. It's always a big game, I always look forward to that."
You can bet all those who packed into Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym on Saturday will keep their eye on another match up.
No Surprise: Lance Shines Again for Lincoln at SNY Invitational
SNY made it a point to hype up Lance Stephenson in the weeks leading up to its inaugural city tournament.
As if Lance needed any more exposure.
Stephenson, not surprisingly, was the star on Friday and Saturday, guiding the Railspitters to the first-annual SNY Invitational title. The Coney Island celeb had 28 points and 13 rebounds and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after he lead Lincoln to an 86-55 win over Cardozo in the tournament’s championship game at New York University's Coles Sports Center.
Look at this guy - he’s downtown, he’s on MSG, he’s live on SNY, he’s filming his web reality TV show. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him standing next to Eli on the steps of City Hall at Tuesday’s Giants celebration.
Lance had some very strong words for Lincoln’s first victims on Friday, the Kennedy Knights.
“We heard they were talking junk,” Stephenson told SNY. “They said they were coming at us, they said they were a better team. So we were so hyped at the beginning of the game. We wanted to destroy them so bad.”
Yeah. Man, not a great idea to tick off Lance Stephenson the day before you play him. Whose idea was it at JFK to insult the No. 17 team in the nation? Whoops. Lance burned Kennedy with 27 points before relaxing on the bench in the fourth as Lincoln scored an 81-61 blowout win.
"I thought it was gonna be a tough game," Stephenson jabbed afterwards. Darwin Ellis scored 10 points and Timothy Flowers added nine for Lincoln.
Get this: Cardozo scored eight points in the third quarter, while Lance scored eight in the quarter by himself. The Railsplitters ballooned their lead to 20 points in the fourth.
Despite the loss, the Judges searched for some positives.
“The sad thing is, when you play teams like this, you have to reward yourself when you do something good," Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio told SNY.
Iona-bound Trinity Fields led Cardozo with 23 points, Edy Toussaint added 14 and Dennis Oglesby chipped in 10. According to SNY, Toussaint was in the hospital until 3 a.m. Saturday morning getting stitches for a cut on his lip sustained during the Judges' 59-45 semifinal win over Frederick Douglass Academy on Friday night.
"I feel [terrible] right now,” Toussaint said before the contest, “but I can't miss this game for anything.”
Well, looking back, he probably could have missed it.
Here’s a look at this week’s New York state rankings. Rice remains No. 1, but we see Lincoln, with two wins, move from No. 4 to No. 2
1. Rice: Remained idle at No. 4 in the national rankings
2. Lincoln: Moved up two spots to No. 17 in the nation
3. St. Raymond: 11-3, remain at No. 18 nationally
4. Holy Cross: 12-6 and falling faster than Tom Brady. Cross dropped seven spots nationally to No. 48
5. Bishop Loughlin: 9-4, Brooklyn squad moved up four spots nationally to No. 52
6. Christ the King: 13-3 and ranked No. 58 nationally
7. Boys & Girls: The Boys are 17-3 and dropped seven spots nationally but remain in the Top-100 at 92.
8. Mt. Vernon
9. Niagara Falls
10. Bishop Maginn (Albany, NY)
Brooklyn the Best as PSAL Playoffs Shape Up
Might we see a rematch on the Garden court between Lincoln and Boys & Girls? Both Brooklyn squads are the only PSAL teams ranked in the state’s Top-10.
The Railsplitters are 12-0 in league action, ranked in the top-25 of all national polls and appear to be back on their 2007 road to the Garden. Lance Stephenson is averaging 23 points per game and that was before he put up about 50 points in two games this past weekend.
Boys & Girls is 11-1 in the league and still burning after a double-OT loss to Lincoln in December. Rutgers-bound Pat Jackson leads the Boys with 21 points per game but has been sidelined lately with a sprained ankle. Lincoln and Boys will face off on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, in another slugfest in Brooklyn.
The 10-2 Wadleigh Tigers look to be in control with nine straight league wins. Senior Will Harrison has led the way with 20 points per game. Junior Terrence Henderson has been averaging 16 per outing. Thurgood Marshall (7-3) may be the only threat on the Island, but at this point, they would need to string together some late wins and hope Wadleigh runs into trouble. Len McNiel and Kareem Green have led the Panthers with about 17 points per this season.
Kennedy (12-1) has already clinched the Bronx borough, but they should be worried after Lincoln stomped its way past them for a big win Saturday at the SNY Invite. It was JFK’s first league loss. Kadeem Nicholas has led the Knights this season win with 18 points per game. JFK, like everyone else, will be tested against Brooklyn’s best.
Campus Magnet and Edison will slug it out for borough bragging rights, but it appears, at 15-1, that the Bulldogs are in control. Campus Magnet (15-2 overall) has already beaten perennial Queens power Cardozo twice and is ranked No. 9 in the PSAL MaxPreps rankings this week. The Queens squad has not lost since Jan. 3 and will face Forest Hills on Tuesday.
Edison (13-3) can tie Campus Magnet for the league title; Cardozo (13-4) could finish up third.
Danny Wild is a writer and photographer for MaxPreps and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org