HARLEM, NY -- The final two teams faced off in the World Basketball Festival's Battle of the Boroughs on Saturday. The Harlem Team looked to make a statement by first defeating the Queens Team and then going for the chip. Unfortunately, Coach Raheem "Rah" Davis and his Queens Team missed that memo, handing the all-stars from the borough of Manhattan a 79-65 loss instead.
Moving out in front, 4-1 as Ryan Rhoomes (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Kadeem Jack (19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) thrashed about and scored in the paint, the Harlem squad quickly found themselves on their heels early. Shaquille Stokes (13 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds) served up drive-by lay-ups on Queens defense with his quick first step but Harlem was still behind, 8-5, with 14:17 left in the first half.
Sidiki Johnson (14 points, 14 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal) began to take the Harlem team's losing position personally as did the crowd at Rucker Park, who was rooting for their home town team. The rising senior served up a facial dunk that would spark the Harlem squad who soon cut Queens' lead to a point with 11:56 before the break.
Baskets by Kareem Canty (8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal) kept Harlem within striking range for the majority of the half until Jermaine Sanders (22 points, 3 rebounds) began to heat up from the perimeter, extending the Queens team's lead to 33-25 with 2:33 on the clock.
Hun School's 5-foot-9 guard, Naasir Williams (12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) and 6-foot-8 forward, Tafari Whittingham (11 points, 12 rebounds, 1 steal) from Avon Old Farms School For Boys (CT) would pick up the slack for Harlem as the half was winding down and a slashing lay-up by Stokes closed the gap even more, leaving the Queens team ahead 38-33 as the two teams huddled in preparation for the second half.
It would be a showdown of the guards as Jevon Thomas (7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) and Corey Edwards (2 points, 4 assists, 1 steal) ran the show for Queens while Stokes and Canty controlled the backcourt for Harlem.
Stokes, an offensive juggernaut, would quickly score two baskets and just like that, Harlem was back to within a point. Sanders, also a prolific scorer, seemed to always come through big from the arc for Queens with one of his 4 three pointers, keeping his team out in front.
Looking to build momentum for his Harlem team, Johnson tied the game at 44 with 16:12 left in regulation. The intensity elevated as the teams would knot up again at 48 and once again at 50. Each time, it would be Queens pulling ahead with Harlem playing catch-up as Jack and Maurice Harkless (8 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound) began to score for Queens.
Never trailing, a perimeter corner basket by Osemuede Egharevba (4 points, 1 rebound) and a lay-ups by Thomas would spark a 10-2 run that gave Queens a 60-52 lead with 6:40 on the clock.
Johnson would show off his shooting range, cutting Harlem's deficit to 5 points as they pressured the ball in an effort to make one last run up the slope. It would be a slope that was becoming continuously steeper as Jack scored a dunk plus the foul with 4:14 to put Queens up, 64-55.
The crowd weighed in, urging their Harlem not to give up even after Queens lead grew to 10 points with 3:08 left to play but another slam dunk by Rhoomes signaled the beginning of the end. An emphatic block by Jack on Johnson in the closing seconds, coupled with a foul on Jack on the following play, put a lid on the Queens team victory.
Queens County will play Bronx in the Nike Tournament of Champions next week to see who will win the Battle of the Boroughs.