By JOHN LIKANJE
EAST FLATBUSH, N.Y. – Nazareth head coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton has made the transition from the Public School Athletic League to the Catholic High School Athletic Association.
“It’s an easy transition right now because it’s just basketball,” Morton, who coached at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn, last season, explained. “Most of the officials are the same guys I know.”
With Tuesday evening’s 66-54 home victory over the Saint Joseph’s By The Sea Vikings (6-7), the Nazareth Kingsmen (10-4) have won seven of their eight games against the CHSAA this season. Coach Morton’s squad has also racked up four consecutive wins as well.
“It’s one game at a time,” Morton said when commenting about the four-game winning streak. “The opponents get different, the venues are going to get new to us and new to me.”
Leading 14-12 after the first quarter, the Kingsmen outscored the Vikings 16-3 in the second for a 30-17 halftime edge. Clinton Kenyeti and Jaqai Murray poured in the Kingsmen’s last 11 points of the period. After Kenyeti knocked down a three-pointer and a layup, Murray netted a trio of layups of his own. Sophomores Zaire Wells and Khalil Brantley scored as part of the spurt. The Kingsmen held the Vikings to 12 missed field goals, including six straight to end the half, five turnovers, and two made field goals in 20 possessions during the second quarter.
“The combinations that we put together were the right combinations,” Morton explained about his squad’s strong second quarter. “It was definitely a roller coaster in terms of how the kids played.”
Coming out of the halftime break, the Kingsmen went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 41-23. Wells, Isaiah Spruill, and Tyreck Morris Junior each scored two points. During the run, the Kingsmen held the Vikings to three turnovers and two missed field goals in five possessions.
In the fourth quarter, Wells swished a long-range shot from the left corner to cap a 7-2 run for a 51-31 Kingsmen lead, their largest of the game. Murray and junior guard Roderick Dawkins scored during the spurt as well.
Morris sparked the Kingsmen with their first four points of the game on two free throws and a layup. He finished with 14 on three layups, a pair of dunks, and went 4-of-4 at the foul line. The sophomore guard grabbed five rebounds, dished out five assists, and blocked three shots as well.
“He’s young and this is his first year playing,” Morton said when evaluating Morris’ performance this season. “He’s scoring the ball solidly and he can take it to another level once he sees the game a little slower.”
Dunk by Tyreck Morris Junior closes out the 66-54 win by @NazarethBBall over @stjosephsea. Morris finished with a team-high 14 points. Gerald Nicholson had a game-high 17 points for the Vikings. @PickinSplinters @CHSAA_NYC @DanSerafin @eliovelez @gregthompson27 @KurtSemder pic.twitter.com/9SvZiEqvO0
— John Mitchell Likanje Junior (@jml5798) January 10, 2019
Brantley scored 12 points on four free throws, two three-pointers, and a layup along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists, and a block.
“It’s his first year playing in New York City,” Morton explained about Brantley. “Scoring is not really his problem. It’s concentrating on setting other guys up and keeping guys in front of him right now.”
Murray chipped in 11, hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds, and blocked a shot. Wells blocked four shots of his own.
Dontae Prescott (8), Wells (8), Kenyeti (5), Tymel Stevenson (3), Spruill (2), Ikenna Ude-Smith (2), and Dawkins (1) rounded out the scoring as the Kingsmen had 10 of their 11 active players score in the game.
“I think that’s the thing we’re doing well,” Morton said. “Keeping everybody ready to play. Every guy, from one to 11, feels that they’re going to play, which I’m happy about that. So you keep the other guys on their toes.”
Junior guard Matthew Koutros knocked down two free throws and a shot from beyond the arc during a 13-4 run for the Vikings in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit down to 55-44 with two and a half minutes remaining. Senior forward Giovanni Adekoya had a three-point play during the spurt as well.
Gerald Nicholson netted 10 of the Vikings’ last 12 points of the game. The junior guard finished with 17 on five layups, two mid-range jumpshots, and went 3-of-4 at the charity stripe. Senior forward Patrick Daddio contributed 11 on two layups-one of which was a three-point play-a jumpshot from the top of the key, and hit five of his six attempts from the free throw line.
Jaden Casanova (9), Koutros (8), Adekoya (7), and John Orosz (1) rounded out the scoring for the Vikings.
Nazareth will host Xavier Monday evening at 6:00 PM. Saint Joseph’s By The Sea will host fellow Staten Island rival Moore Catholic Friday night at 7:00 PM.