POISED FOR PLAYOFFS AND DEFYING THE ODDS

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For several years, the Beacon High School boys’ basketball team has put together moderately successful seasons. The Blue Demons tend to finish near the top of the pack in their division, but fall early in the playoffs.
Heading into the 2008-2009 campaign, there was plenty of reason to doubt Beacon’s ability to contend once again. The squad lost eight of 12 players from the season before to graduation. A year before that, it was 10 of 14 members who moved on. And yet, as of press time, the Demons are 8-3 and look playoff-bound once again.
On Monday, they warded off a challenge from George Washington, winning 79-70, improving to 8-3 and remaining near the top of their division with six games left before the postseason. They entered the fourth quarter trailing by 10 against their opponents, but they turned on the jets after that. Beacon outscored Washington 28-9 in that final quarter to secure the win.

A Beacon player leaps for the basket with George Washington in hot pursuit. Photo by Andrew Schwartz.

A Beacon player leaps for the basket with George Washington in hot pursuit. Photo by Andrew Schwartz.

A pair of sophomores provided much of the scoring, and their contributions have helped the Demons offset the loss of so many veterans. Marlon Cirker was the only underclassman on the varsity a year ago. Now, he has sprouted into a dangerous scoring threat, averaging more than 15 points per game. But the bigger surprise has to be Aldin Medunjanin, a transfer from Baruch College Campus High School. He has emerged as one of the best players in Manhattan, a multifaceted threat who can score, rebound and pass. He averages over 21 points, more than six rebounds and nearly three assists.
No matter what fortune Beacon finds in the playoffs, its future seems secure with that dynamic pair.

Other Basketball News
For all Beacon’s success, the Blue Demons are still probably a step behind their divisional rival, High School for Environmental Studies. The latter is 8-2 and beat Beacon 68-49 early in January. They meet again on Feb. 4.
Hunter, meanwhile, last seen edging a travel squad from Australia, is still undefeated. The Hawks, 11-0 in their division now, enjoyed a comfortable 68-44 victory over Life Sciences Secondary on Monday. Cole Garson led the squad with 15 points.
As for the girls, Food and Finance is also undefeated and atop its division with a 9-0 record. Martin Luther King is a step behind at 8-1. They will face off in their final regular season game on Feb. 12. Food and Finance’s accomplishments are all the more impressive considering the team only two seniors, Jeannette Harris and Ardaisha Hudson. Luckily for the Seahawks, they have a strong group of juniors and younger players.
Collegiate, last year’s state champ among independent schools, continues to steamroll the local opposition. The Dutchmen are 8-2 and most recently defeated Upper West Side rival St. Agnes 72-51 on Monday.
A few blocks away at Calhoun, the girls’ squad is 7-2 after beating Churchill last Friday. The Dwight girls are 7-1 and defeated a powerful team in Dalton last Friday 57-48, with Antonia Smith leading the way with 18 points. The Dwight boys (6-3), who have had an up-and-down season, also bested Dalton last week. Everyone, though, is still probably behind Fieldston, whose boys’ team beat Dwight in overtime last week and is 8-3, with all its losses coming during a winter break trip to Arizona. The Fieldston girls are also doing well with a 9-2 record.

Right on Track
The second Ivy League track-and-field meet of the season took place on Jan. 5. On the boys’ side, Collegiate proved its strength once again with victories in the 55-meter hurdles by William Wheeler and in the shot-put by Sam Levison. The Dutchmen’s middle-distance and endurance runners were superlative as usual. Harry Haveles and freshman Will Garcia topped the field in the 600, while Hashem Zikry and Thomas Giardina did the same in the 1,000.
There was a wide selection of local winners on the girls’ side. Sacred Heart produced victories in the 55 hurdles (Alexandra Flinchum) and 600 (Dana Walsh). For Trinity, Jessie Wolf took the 1,600 and Kitty Cook won the shot-put with a heave of more than 26 feet.
The next Ivy League meet isn’t until late February, but most teams will see each other again at the Mayor’s Cup on Jan. 31.

Squash Returns to Grand Central
The Tournament of Champions, the premier squash event in New York every year and one of the best in the United States, looked like it was in trouble when its longtime sponsor Bear Stearns collapsed last year. Not to worry—J.P. Morgan stepped in, and the tournament will return to Grand Central for its 12th year.
Once again, the competition will feature the best players in the world, including defending champion Ramy Ashour. He is one of the 15 highest-ranked players on tour who will be vying for the title.
Unfortunately, the women’s draw has been canceled this year, but there are two new events in its place. The inaugural Junior Open will take place on Jan. 24 and 25 at the SL Green StreetSquash center in Harlem. And Grand Central will also host a charity ping-pong tournament on Jan. 26.
As for the main event, it will take place from Jan. 23 to 29 with qualifying rounds next Wednesday and Thursday. For more information, check out www.tocsquash.com.

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