Boys & Girls held a big advantage over Jefferson heading into the Public Schools Athletic League Class AA finals because, as the two-time defending champions, playing at Madison Square Garden was nothing new to it.
That inevitable feeling of awe wouldn’t have the same effect that it would for Jefferson. The intimidation factor wouldn’t be there. It could just play the game of basketball the way it has all year while the newcomers were overtaken by the bright lights and the big court.
It even carried over to those on the team who had never played in a PSAL title game before. Led by newcomer Rashad Andrews, a transfer student from St. Anthony (N.J.) who had never before played at the Garden before, it beat Jefferson 71-67 to win its third consecutive PSAL AA championship Saturday.
“Before the game even started I told Rashad they're going to be on me and (Leroy “Truck” Fludd),” Boys High’s Wesley Myers explained. “I knew (Jaquan “Son Son” Lynch) was going to be on me pretty heavily and there would be two and three guys on Truck so we were going to have to go to Rashad and he was prepared.”
Andrews was prepared and while other newcomers wilted under the intense spotlight, he played the game of his life. He scored 26 points overall and went 5-of-5 from behind the three-point line. His most impressive run came in the first quarter as he hit back-to-back threes to give Boys High (24-6) a slim 10-9 lead and then kept his hot streak going as he had 21 by halftime when his team jumped out to a 41-35 lead.
Boys High has had to rely on a number of transfer students this year as many of the members of its previous championship teams have since moved on.
“It's very difficult to bring guys from different programs and mold them together without chemistry being messed up and bickering and arguing,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said. “The new guys that are here, I just tell them to buy in to what we try to tell you, what we teach. We have some guys that have been here and they'll try to help along the way.”
Lovelace gives a lot of the credit in helping her integrate her transfer players into her system to Fludd, her star player.
“I can't say enough about the PSAL player of the year,” Lovelace said jokingly referring to Fludd. “He's every coach’s dream. I'm always telling Truck, ‘you got to lead. You know what it takes and what you got to do,’ and he’s done a tremendous job keeping these guys together.”
Fludd isn’t just a leader off the court. On the court he delivered 17 points and 12 rebounds. He was especially big in the second half of the game as he scored six points in the third quarter and another six in the fourth.
Jefferson (25-7) is known as a big second-half team, but because of Fludd’s 12 points and more importantly his defense, Jefferson’s star player, Thaddeus Hall, was held to just 17 points after he averaged 32.5 points the past two times he faced Boys and Girls.
“The key to the game was defense,” Fludd explained. “We knew we had to stop Thaddeus and that's what we did. I focused on keeping him from taking his shots and forced him into taking bad shots, my shots.”
That was the big thing for Boys High. It focused on containing not just Hall, but Jefferson’s other star player Lynch, who had 18 points. It wasn’t a bad game for Lynch, but considering he is capable of dropping 30 points or more on any given nigh, it was a considerable accomplishment.
“They call us Batman and Robin, but we aren’t solving any crimes today,” Lynch said after the game in disbelief.
Coming into the game, Boys High was full of confidence. Fludd even boasted that he guaranteed victory. After the game, though, it was a more humble and appreciative team as Lovelace refused to call this run of three straight titles a dynasty.
“I'm never going to say dynasty,” Lovelace said. “I'm grateful for every season and every win. Coming in, you don't really dream about this. You don't think this could happen to win three in a row and be part of history.”