Bryan Smith was the story of the PSAL’s Class A division with his prolific offensive performances and the interest he garnered from Division I programs. His teammates swore by him because he was egoless, putting wins over personal accomplishments.
Sunday’s “A” title game was the perfect example. Midwood’s opponent, Long Island City, double-teamed Smith early and often. He didn’t force the issue, scoring only 13 points – a personal low this postseason – despite the swarm of coaches there to see him.
He let his teammates – from guard Jean Dimiri Dolce to wing Emmanuel Joseph and forward Enees Nikovic – lead the Hornets to their first basketball city championship of any kind since 1968.
The three role players came up aces, leading the top seed to a 60-49 victory over Long Island City in the PSAL Class A boys basketball final Sunday.
“Every team that plays a junk defense against us, it hasn’t worked,” Midwood coach Victor Gjecaj said. “We have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the hole. All the guys stepped up for us.”
Joseph scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to earn MVP honors, Dolce had 10 points and Nikovic nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Aaron Williams paced LIC (27-3) with 24 points and Kevin Green Jr. tallied 11. Dolce and Joseph broke the game open late in the third quarter, combining for a 7-0 run as Midwood opened up a 45-31 lead. LIC got as close as eight on several occasions, but the Hornets had an answer at every turn.
“It feels really great,” said the uncommitted Smith. “We worked six months for this. All our hard work paid off.”
After a blowout semifinal victory over DeWitt Clinton on Friday, Joseph talked a big game, basically guaranteeing victory. He backed up those words, particularly early, scoring eight points to help Midwood (28-3) take a 21-11 lead after the first quarter.
“I always knew nobody was going to stop us,” Joseph said. “We came out and did what we had to do.”
He was talking about his entire team, but he may as well have been referring to himself. The 6-foot-2 Joseph suited up in just five games as a junior because of academic ineligibility and was on the bench over the season’s first month this winter for ineffectiveness. Yet around the holidays, he found his stroke, worked his way into the starting lineup and saved his best performance for the season’s last game.
“I came back with a vengeance,” he said.