Monday, April 21, 2014

JFK’s Mathis denied milestone win

Andy Gross
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Derrick Ridley, fights for a rebound against Thurgood Marshall Academy on Dec. 6.

It is fortunate that John F. Kennedy (JFK) boys’ varsity basketball coach Johnny Mathis is a patient man:  Securing his 600th career win might take longer than he thought.

The Eagle Academy for Young Men flipped the script  Dec. 5, denying Mathis his milestone win by defeating the Knights on their home court 88-61.

One night later, on Dec. 6, Thurgood Marshall Academy beat JFK 74-43.

But Mathis was less concerned with that 600th win than with the development of the players on his team and the season ahead.

“I’m always disappointed in losing,” said Mathis, who is entering his 27th year at the helm of JFK boys’ basketball team. “I’m patient. I’ll get it somewhere down the line. It’ll come. I’m not going to panic.”

But the veteran coach found grist for instruction in the resounding defeat. “I think it helped in terms of teaching,” he said. “We had a lot of inexperienced guys who now know the reality of being in a game.”

The Knights, 1-2, play next at home on Thursday, Dec. 12 against Herbert H. Lehman High School.

Eagle Academy improved to 3-0.

The Eagles’ senior guard Juwan Chapman, who scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, controlled the flow of play on the court for most of the game.

Meanwhile, guard Jaquan Strong hit four three-point baskets for the Eagles in the third quarter to blow the game wide open. He finished with 23 points.

The Knights were in trouble from the start.

JFK’s guards turned the ball over five times in the first three minutes of the game against the Eagles’ full-court trapping pressure leading to a series of quick scoring opportunities for the academy.

The Eagles also dominated the boards against JFK’s big men.

The first half was sloppy with bodies flying. JFK committed 16 fouls in the first half. The Eagles took advantage of the situation by going 20-29 from the foul line during that time.

Still, junior six-foot-six-inch center Darius Webster and seniors Anthony Cruz and point guard Juan Arias helped JFK stay in the game as the Eagles took a 23-20 lead to end of the first quarter.

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