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Over the last month, Keyon Aigle has a developed a ritual. Before going to sleep, he sits up in bed and motivates himself.
“The harder we play, the more aggressive I am, the further we’ll go,” Aigle repeats.
The tradition has worked wonders, for Aigle and his Brooklyn College Academy teammates.
The junior off guard shot the Bobcats into the PSAL Class B boys’ basketball city championship game, sinking the winning 3-pointer off the glass with 35 seconds remaining, the biggest shot in a game full of them. It was the deciding basket in No. 26 BCA’s thrilling 65-63 victory over No. 3 Townsend Harris at Hunter College Tuesday afternoon, the Bobcats’ fourth consecutive upset of a top 10 seed.
“It’s OK to be Cinderella,” coach Alicia Braswell said, “as long as we keep winning.”
Said Aigle: “I’m joyful. This brought tears to my eyes. I’m still shocked and amazed we won.”
In his high school finale, Sheldon Jones paced the Hawks with 32 points, 23 of them in the second half, and Thomas Tsatsis had 15.
Aigle led BCA with 25 points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Onyema Utti added 18, Jamaal Jones had 11 and Tarik Phillip seven in front of a large gathering of Bobcat fans that drowned out the rooting section of the favored opposition.
The team has become pseudo celebrities at the school. Students wish them good luck and congratulations.
“It means everything,” principal Nicholas Mazzarella said. “We’re a close knit school, but this brings everyone together.”
In a departure from the upset of No. 2 J.K.O. in the quarterfinals, the Bobcats got out to an impressive start. Utti capped a 13-0 run with a layup to make it 30-17 midway through the second quarter. Led by Aigle’s 13 first-half points, they led 36-26 at halftime.
Jones, the senior guard, however, wouldn’t let Townsend Harris go down without a fight. He attacked the basket on almost every possession, whizzing past the Bobcat guards like they weren’t there. He scored 10 of the Hawks’ first 12 points in the third quarter, basically singlehandedly orchestrating a 14-7 run.
Sukhjinder Singh gave the Hawks their first lead, 51-50, since the opening quarter on a corner jump shot with 5:34 to play. Aigle, though, responded with a 3-pointer. The two sides went back and fourth over the next few minutes. BCA built a four-point lead on baskets from Jared Mansano and Utti, yet the Hawks got even on Jones’ emphatic right-handed slam with 2:04 to go.
Jones gave Townsend Harris the lead on a difficult leader off the glass with 50.8 seconds to go. On the next possession, the ball swung to Aigle at the top of the key, a few feet beyond the 3-point line.
“I told myself it’s now or never,” he recalled. “Something told me to just shoot it. It was instinct.”
The shot came off long, but fortunately found a soft spot on the backboard and caromed in. That’s how it’s gone for Aigle and the Bobcats.
“I walked away because I knew it was going in,” Utti, a junior forward, said. “I would never doubt one of his shots.”
It was a tough regular season, with Jones missing eight games with a fractured eye socket and Utti missing two more for unspecified reasons.
The biggest difference, however, is Aigle. He was prone to passing off shots earlier in the year, a result of negative feedback he received from teammates that are no longer on the team.
Braswell always encouraged him to be more aggressive. After watching how accurate he shot from the perimeter in practice, so did the other Bobcats. It finally starts to click in the playoffs.
“Now,” Phillip, the sophomore point guard, said, “he’s got a fire in his eyes like he’s gonna dominate the game.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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