New York Ball: East holds off Eagle Academy to remain undefeated

Zecharia Harris-Scott scored a game-high 32 points in Saturday’s victory against Eagle Academy. (PHOTO: JOHN LIKANJE)

By JOHN LIKANJE

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Darrell Barley observed the game between Rome Free Academy (III) and Murry Bergtraum (Public School Athletic League) and was appalled by the physicality of the contest. “In Rochester, that’s a foul!,” the East High head coach repeatedly declared. Fortunately, Barley anticipated this and made sure his squad was “ready for war.” It certainly seemed that way for the first three minutes of the game.

East High raced to a quick start and held off Eagle Academy (Public School Athletic League), 77-66, in the Brooklyn Post Invitational, Saturday night.

East scored the first 10 points of the contest on the strength of a pair of three-pointers from Damani Barley. The Eagles’ press defense forced five straight turnovers to start the game as well.

“I’m a firm believer that teams that like to press normally don’t want to be pressed,” Coach Barley stated when referring to Eagle Academy. “We had some turnovers and they had some turnovers. It’s just that we were able to get stops at the end and they weren’t.”

Eagle Academy rebounded with 15 first-half points from leading scorer, DaMarco Watson, and trailed at intermission, 34-30. However, East stormed out of halftime with 11 unanswered as part of an 18-6 run. Senior forward Zecharia Harris-Scott scored 13 of his game-high 32 points in the third period, including East’s first nine points.

“My teammates, they helped me into this game,” Harris-Scott explained. “They pushed me to keep going hard.”

“Zach is a beast,” Coach Barley said about his senior forward. “He’s one of the best players in New York State. He’s definitely a Division I prospect. Zach is our leader.”

Despite taking East’s best punches, Eagle Academy recovered yet again with a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a 57-56 edge – its first lead since the start of the second period.

But East kept its composure and pulled away with a 10-0 run. Leading 65-64 with 3:40 remaining, Damani Barley scored eight consecutive points on back-to-back three-pointers and a pair of free throws.

“I was fired up,” the sophomore guard said after swishing the long-range shots. “After I seen them go in, I was like ‘Let me shoot another one.’ I shot another one and it went in. I was just pumped.”

Justus Ross-Simmons capped off the run with two shots from the charity stripe for a 75-64 advantage with 45.1 seconds remaining.

“New York basketball, it’s real physical,” Coach Barley acknowledged. “We had to fight through adversity. I think this is good because it’s going to help us in the long run if we want to win a sectional championship and maybe go a little further. I’m so happy that these guys came out and played against a very physical team in a kind of hostile environment and just to put our name on the map.”

Along with his 32-point performance, Harris-Scott collected two rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block.

“I already knew that we were going to come down here and be physical,” the senior forward said. “I just told my team don’t look for no fouls. Just come out here and play hard and play our game.”

Damani Barley netted 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. The sophomore guard dished out six assists and corralled five boards as well.

“He’s a very confident player,” Coach Barley said about his younger son. “Second year playing varsity. He probably grew about four or five inches. He’s always been a great shooter. Our team got confidence in him to make that shot.”

“Damani, he’s a clutch man,” Harris-Scott said. “I put my hat off to Damani and everything that he does because he’s a crafty dude. He’s mellow. He doesn’t let anything get to him.”

Justus Ross-Simmons filled the stat sheet with 15 points, six steals, five rebounds, an assist and a block.

Kaori Barley (5), Kai McCullough (3) and Clinique Jackson (2) rounded out the scoring for East, which forced 30 turnovers and 40 missed field goals in 84 possessions.

After scoring a combined 82 points in his last two games, Eagle Academy’s DaMarco Watson netted 23 while fighting through double teams and physical contact.

Vernon Simmons ignited an attempted rally with 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. The senior small forward connected on 7-of-7 free throws as well. Edwin Santiago added 14 points. Kevin Wilson (3), Khanye Liggin (2), Kwame Opoku (2) and Asa Kone (1) rounded out the scoring for Eagle Academy.

East will take on George Westinghouse (Public School Athletic League) Sunday at 3:30 p.m. before heading back to Rochester.

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