It still may be early January, but as far as the standings in Yale Cup I go, the Middle Early College Kats have to be liking where they sit.
The Kats came from behind to down McKinley on the road, 66-59, to secure sole possession of first place in the Yale Cup I standings on Tuesday night.
“Its definitely a huge win,” Middle College coach James Kane said. “We had a tough stretch to start the season in some nonleague games, but we try to take momentum and build the team chemistry to really hit our stride. I don’t think we’ve even reached our potential yet.”
In a track meet of a game, McKinley’s ability to prevent Middle College (5-3, 5-0) from getting many good shots was what carried them in the early going, as the Macks (6-3, 3-2) jumped out to a 22-10 lead early in the second quarter. The Kats would respond with a 9-0 run capped off with a Devonte Prince (game-high 22 points) 4-point play to get themselves back on terms, and they only trailed 30-27 at halftime.
Once again, it was the Macks who came out of the locker room looking like the better team, as a 10-0 run that started and ended with a Bush Rieang 3-pointer, who came off the bench to lead McKinley with 13 points, gave the Macks a 44-33 advantage with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
After a Middle College timeout, the Kats kicked it up a notch, and showed why they’re ranked the No. 4 Class C team in New York State.
“We had to battle back and try not to turn the ball over because they pressure the ball,” Kane said. “We played more calm with it, moved it around, and found the open guy. We attacked when we had our chances.”
From the point Middle College trailed by 11 points late in the third, a 27-6 run turned the game on its head. The Kats took their first lead of the night at 52-50 early in the fourth, and with 4:30 to play in the game, they led 60-50.
McKinley did respond with a run of their own, as a 10-1 outburst cut their deficit to just two in the final minutes, but they could retake control.
“Mentally, we weren’t tough enough with the ball. We were rushing too much,” Macks coach Zaire Dorsey. “Instead of just slowing up the game, we rushed the game and we had too many turnovers in the backcourt.”
Kane preached hustle to his Kats during multiple timeouts, and got it in the clutch from senior leader Jamond Jones.
After Jones scored the dagger, a layup with 30 seconds to play to put Middle College up 64-59, the ensuing McKinley rush down the floor resulted in a charge being drawn by none other than Jones, which all but ended things.
“I was thinking ‘we got to win this game and stay in first place in Yale Cup.’ We couldn’t go out with a loss,” said Jones, who finished with 13 points. “McKinley is always a competitive team, they’re always right there with us. It was a tough game, any game here is tough, but we’ll enjoy this and get ready for the next game.”
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