“Other players had to step up,” said Van Buren head coach Everton Edwards. “We do what we do. Basketball games are won in between the lines. You have to go out and believe you can win.”
Both teams were slow on shots throughout the first quarter, but remained physical on play. Judges forward Armando Dunn and power forward Carl Edoua Balthazar continued to snatch the ball right from the VeeBees’ hands whenever they had the opportunity.
With three minutes left, VeeBees guard Vladimir Midy faked right, sank a jump shot and got the foul for a four-point play. Forward Kristian Mondesir from Cardozo rebounded the ball and responded with a three-point shot, ending the quarter at 12-6 Cardozo.
The second quarter opened with four successful quick shots, back-to-back from both teams. Dunn blocked a VeeBees’ shot attempt and Judges’ guard Marzuq Jimoh grabbed the ball and ran with it, scoring on the other end of the court.
“If you need 30 seconds, tell me,” Ron Naclerio, Cardozo head coach, yelled to the out-of-breath Jimoh after he made his shot.
Van Buren started making long passes around the perimeter, sending Cardozo players chasing after the ball. In the final minutes of the half, the VeeBees outscored the Judges 6-2.
After halftime, the Judges slumped back onto the court, looking defeated.
Naclerio shouted: “Play Cardozo basketball!” before his team started play.
Center Francisco Williams acknowledged his coach, took the ball and easily sank a layup to start off the half, bringing the score to 24-17 Cardozo, and the team was suddenly revived.
Van Buren missed their following shot and the rebound was snagged by Cardozo point guard Elijah McNeely, who dribbled down the court and sent a sharp pass to Williams in the paint.
The VeeBees continued to play hard but fell short in executing their shots. With 49 seconds left in the game, Edwards used a full time-out despite a 17-point deficit.
After Cardozo got their energy back, they were able to win 53-35, but not without scaring the crowd just a little.
“That was a good game, it made us sweat,” said a group of Cardozo parents.