Deep in Flushing sits the Fitzgerald gymnasium on Queens College’s campus. Wide with a high, curved white ceiling reinforced with metal beams, it set a grand atmosphere for what felt like an equally grand matchup on Monday between DeWitt Clinton’s boys basketball team and Transit Tech high school from East New York for the semifinals of the PSAL citywide playoffs.
This was a rematch from last year’s playoffs where, during the same round, Clinton lost to Transit Tech 64-55. Clinton came up short again, losing to Tech 59-49.
The first quarter of the semifinal game started very organized. Both teams were patient in setting up their offense, running plays and waiting for the best opportunity to score. The first few possessions ended scoreless as both teams tried to find their rhythm.
After a scramble at mid-court, Clinton senior guard Jason Coachman brought the loose ball in for a layup to start the scoring. Junior guard Nowah Hargrow followed up in the corner, with no one around, taking a long, slow wind up for a three.
After getting stifled on offense, unable to penetrate Transit Tech’s defense, Tech’s senior guard/forward Xavier Sanchez got the outlet pass for an easy layup on back-to-back possessions. This would be the recurring theme of the night for Clinton, unable to get through Tech’s punishing defense in the paint.
The Governors’ usual bread and butter is making quick cuts and beating teams to the basket, but with guards and forwards nearly all above 6 feet, Tech made it difficult for anyone to finish under the hoop. The first quarter ended with Clinton up 15-10 thanks to well-placed shots outside the key. Tech was finding openings; they just weren’t landing yet.
The second quarter was much of the same back-and-forth, rigid defense with some scoring sprinkled in. Clinton senior guard Jomauri Peña started to get some success cutting to the basket and senior guard Angel Felix made some seriously courageous floaters on the inside with Tech’s high towering players in his face. The baseline and the key had been a death trap for the Governors with Tech’s big trio of senior forward Tyler Fraser, junior center Jadyn Wilson, and junior guard/forward Ashton Reynolds, who have been unrelenting at the rim.
Clinton was able to use their speed and quickness to get by Tech’s size. It was clear Reynolds was the player of the game, and one to watch in the future, when he made a clean block from behind. The half ended with Clinton up 26-23.
The second half continued to be close in the third quarter, when Transit Tech started to pull away. The Governors hamstrung themselves with numerous fouls. Coachman even fouled out by the last couple minutes of the fourth, giving Tech multiple opportunities to stay in the game.
Transit Tech senior guard Garelle Solomon heated up tremendously, penetrating through to the basket and making multiple threes to widen the lead. In the final minutes Tech went on a five-point scoring run that Clinton couldn’t make up.
Though Hargrow made a three afterward, Tech senior Fraser essentially ended the game, getting the ball on a fast break and, with no one in front of him, putting back a huge dunk and staring at the crowd from under the basket. The Tech fans cheered back.
As the final buzzer went off, Transit Tech players started hopping around the court and dapping each other up as the Governors dragged their feet to the bench, some with jerseys over their heads, some shedding tears.
In an earlier PSAL playoff round, DeWitt Clinton brought another packed gym buzzing with even more Governor fans, students, and staff to see the No. 3 ranked boys basketball team host No. 19 Brooklyn Technical high school.
This time, they had even more to cheer about as Clinton dominated the Brooklyn Tech Engineers 73-41. If they had any lingering nerves or jitters from last week’s slow start against No. 30 Far Rockaway, it must’ve fizzled away at tip off.
“I thought we were much more relaxed going into the matchup with Brooklyn Tech. We got off to a great start and never looked back. We also shot it really well… allowing for paint drives to open up. If we play like this going forward, we will be a tough out in this tournament,” said Clinton head coach Chris Ballerini.