Edison takes clash with Forest Hills


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Watch out, borough: The Thomas Edison Inventors might very well be the team to beat in Queens.
When the battle of Queens upstarts, Forest Hills and Edison, graced Forest Hills High School on Tuesday, December 9, everyone in the jam-packed gymnasium knew that the victor might very well call itself a favorite to win the borough’s vaunted PSAL ‘AA’ division. So when the boys from Thomas Edison emerged victorious by a score of 74-64, it was only natural for them to celebrate with hugs and a few jubilant hops in the air.
“Tough gym, small gym, loud crowd,” Thomas Edison head coach John Ulmer Jr. said after the game. “I tried to set up a tough non-league schedule to get [Edison’s players] ready for playing in front of crowds like this.”
He admitted that his team’s fast start has made the prospect of late-season glory a little more real for his players.
Forget the implications of this game on the standings and you could still understand the Inventors’ reaction. Their contest against Forest Hills, decisive final score notwithstanding, was a two-hour maelstrom of arms, legs, and a slippery ball. Point guards were pressured into making four passes just to get to the center of the court after inbounding along the baseline. Forwards were deprived of a single casual layup, constantly forced to rely on a friendly rim and backboard to guide a sideways-moving ball into the basket. Even an assistant referee was victimized by the intensity, when an errant ball escaped a furious scramble and deflected off the front of his face.
From the lobby of Forest Hills High School, one could hear any combination of sounds emanating from the back right corner of the building - stereos blaring during warm-ups, cheerleaders shrieking during pre-game introductions, parents stomping their feet for the defense and shaking the bleachers around them. The father of Forest Hills sophomore point guard Antonie Tutt emerged from his seat and flung his arms violently to encourage the vocal crowd during a late timeout.
They all knew the stakes. Forest Hills (now 1-1) and Thomas Edison (now 3-0), recent additions to the PSAL ‘AA’ Queens division, stood out as third- and fourth-place finishers last year and are poised to climb their way past the suddenly-young perennial powers of Benjamin Cardozo and Campus Magnet. When Campus Magnet lost to Long Island City on the first day of the public-school season, then lost again by two points to Edison, it was evidence of a turnover at the top that already appeared to be materializing.
Amid all the scrambling on Tuesday, a few players managed to stand out. Thomas Edison senior guard/forward Isiah Stokley led everyone with 27 points, followed by Forest Hills senior guard Andre Armstrong, who scored 26.
Stokley was showy all night, galvanizing Edison supporters in the enemy gymnasium with the help of his reliable three-point shot. In addition, twice - in the first quarter, and then again in the third - he finished a mighty dunk after a full-court pass found him standing alone in the painted area. Forest Hills sophomore guard/forward Maurice Harkless was strong on defense, stuffing a Thomas Edison shot on the first play of the game and repeating the feat at least once each quarter.
The score stayed tight throughout the first three quarters of the contest. After the first quarter, Thomas Edison led 17-14. After the second, Forest Hills led 30-29. After the third, the score was 46-39 Thomas Edison, largely thanks to a sequence of successful rebounding and marksmanship from beyond the arc.
Only in the fourth quarter did Thomas Edison pull away. Unlike Forest Hills, the Inventors converted their three-point attempts - freshman guard Jevon Thomas and junior forward Stephen Nwaukoni being the sparks in this regard - and made their free throws. More importantly (with respect to momentum, at least), they capitalized on two consecutive lazy inbound passes and converted each to steals and dagger-in-the-heart field goals.
Perhaps Thomas Edison’s most consistent advantage came in its three-point shooting and its ball handling. From the left corner of the court in particular, too many darts silenced the Forest Hills-partisan audience. More often than not, a loose ball was ultimately picked up by a player in blue; often, too, were the occasions that an Edison defender, ready to steal, took advantage of Forest Hills’ careless play in the frontcourt.
It’s celebration time, then, for the Inventors. But Ulmer promises that he will not allow complacency to develop among his players as the season moves into high gear.
“You can’t sleep on a lot of these teams,” he said. “I think this is one of the toughest divisions out there. They don’t give us a lot of credit in Queens, but this is one tough division.”