In Tarik Raynor's four seasons playing for the Campus Magnet Bulldogs, he had never once beaten Cardozo, the team that has taken the Queens AA Division title every year since he started high school.
On Tuesday, Raynor hit a three-point shot in the final minute to put his team up on its way to an eventual 69-65 victory over Cardozo at home.
It was a thrilling game, at least it should have been. Instead, Raynor said it felt more like winning a scrimmage as the school’s last-minute decision to not allow spectators meant the two teams were forced to play in front of less than 40 people.
“In a home game, especially against Cardozo, everybody wants to play in front of their classmates,” Raynor said. “Having no spectators, it was a horrible experience, a horrible feeling because everybody was talking about going to the game.”
School officials didn’t respond to multiple phone calls for an explanation. Cardozo’s coach, Ron Naclerio, said that it was his understanding that the school acted to keep spectators out based on buzz that they heard over Facebook and Twitter that a ridiculously large crowd was expected to show up to the rivalry game.
“It was sad because it was a great game,” Naclerio said. “Nobody wants to play in a gym like that. I'm used to walking into Campus Magnet, seeing the large crowds, and getting booed. To walk in there and to see 22 people, it didn't have the same wow.”
The game was supposedly open to parents, but a member of Campus Magnet said that a few parents didn’t bother to show up as they expected to get turned away at the door. The school’s cheerleaders were not allowed in either and Cardozo even had trouble getting into the building and had to go to multiple entrances before finally being allowed in.
One coach said that he feared that college scouts that planned on attending the game were turned away and Naclerio mentioned that a move like this could potentially hurt Campus Magnet’s basketball program.
“Campus Magnet unfortunately doesn't have the greatest reputation as a school anyway,” Naclerio explained. “Now kids have to worry that fans are not going to be allowed at their games. It is a reason not to go there.”
Campus Magnet has a reputation for having a rowdy fan base and that is especially true for games against Cardozo, but nobody involved could think of a single incident that had ever occurred during or after games at the school. Most added that the rowdy crowds are part of the charm that comes with playing games at Campus Magnet.
Raynor said that at home the crowd can be a huge advantage, calling them, “the sixth man.”
The win was Campus Magnet's (7-2, 4-1 Queens AA) latest in a surprising season where they not only have beaten Cardozo, but another Queens stalwart in Bayside as well.
“We were mad, but we took it out on them,” Raynor said. “I wish my last home game against Cardozo didn’t go down this way, but a win is a win. I’m not complaining about that.”