After a deep run in Nike Memorial Day Classic in New Orleans and a trip to the finals of the Basketball City Tournament the weekend before, the Metro Hawks had to be in the conversation when talking about title contenders for this weekend's Rumble in the Bronx at Fordham University. The thing was, Friday's night's pool play opener against New Heights didn't go according to plan.
Clearly missing the contributions of Niko Scott, Chris Martin, and Akeem Gooding, who were at Hofstra for the team camp with their Christ the King teammates, and hurt by the late arrival of Tyrell Biggs, the Metro Hawks plunged into an early deficit, one that would grow to 47-26 at the half.
New Heights was pressing the issue and forcing an early frantic pace, while the Metro Hawks did little to answer their pressure with a lack of ball handlers. Bishop Loughlin guard Herbie Allen did what he could as the Hawks' primary ballhandler, and at times was solid, but New Heights' pressure, size, and athleticism wore the Hawks down.
6-foot-3 swingman Junior Bernal (The Hyde School, Bath, Maine) chipped in for New Heights with a number of fast break buckets, while 6-8 power forward Cameron Lewis (Phillips Exeter Academy, Exter, NH) was active on the glass and provided solid post defense.
By the time Biggs entered the game around the 5:00 mark in the first half after arriving late, the Metro Hawks were already in a 31-22 hole, and losing momentum. 6-foot-6 power forward Jon Mitchell from Mount Vernon High School shouldered the brunt of the scoring load for the Hawks, using his footwork and touch inside for some interior buckets, but they could get little going otherwise, and even Biggs' presence did little to stop the bleeding.
New Heights' lead teetered in the double digits for most of the second half. 6-foot-7 combo forward Lance Thomas from Scotch Plains High School in Scotch Plains, NJ, proved valuable for the duration of the game with his energy and activity, scoring inside and from mid-range. It was a pretty well-rounded effort, however, that helped New Heights to the resounding, and rather stunning, 76-55 opening game win over the Metro Hawks.
Bernal led New Heights with 19 points, most off of drives. Thomas added 15 points and was active on both ends of the floor. New Heights also got noteworthy contributions from Lewis, who was active on the glass and did a nice defensive job on Mitchell and Biggs.
Mitchell led all scorers with 25 points. The crafty lefthander has had a terrific spring so far, and this effort did nothing to detract from that. He just didn't get help from his supporting for the Hawks to keep it competitive.
Biggs finished with seven points on the night.