Two years ago, Jonathan Veloz was part of Christ the King’s future, playing for the CHSAA Class AA intersectional junior varsity title with teammates TJ Curry, Terrel Hunt and Aaron Williams, who is now at Long Island City.
The guard was checking out a bunch of prep schools last year, but instead wound up at Monsignor McClancy and he couldn’t be happier.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Veloz said. “I’m here now and it feels great. I think it was the best decision I ever made coming to McClancy. I want to win a chip.”
The Crusaders might be a longshot to win the Class A intersectional title, but McClancy put itself in good position to win the A-South crown with a come-from-behind 57-52 win against St. Edmund Prep on Jan. 13 in East Elmhurst.
After sitting out his junior year because of the CHSAA transfer rule, Veloz is making a major impact this year. On Jan. 5, in Brooklyn, the 6-foot-1 senior sank the winning free throws in a 57-55 victory and eight days later Veloz scored six of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, all from the foul line, to secure a key second win against St. Edmund Prep.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” McClancy coach Don Kent said. “He’s really stepped up. It took him a while to adjust, but he’s responded as a ball handler, as a defender and as a shooter.”
McClancy (7-4, 5-3 A-South) is tied with the Eagles atop the A-South standings, but now has the tiebreaker courtesy of sweeping the season series.
For a while, though, it looked like the Eagles would prevail, especially with a 37-27 lead on a 3-point play by David Louison (17 points) with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
However, the Crusaders scored the final five points of the quarter, including a pivotal 3-pointer by Veloz with six seconds left.
Suddenly, McClancy had life.
“I think when we cut it to five psychologically the kids knew we have a whole quarter to get them,” Kent said. “I think we turned up the defensive intensity and went after rebounds.”
It had the adverse affect on St. Edmund Prep, which fell to 9-6, 5-3.
“It kind of took the wind out of us,” Eagles coach Dan Wiatre said. “I don’t know why.”
That sparked a 20-3 run by McClancy, which took a 47-40 lead and never looked back. While Veloz was clutch from the line, Jaleel Feurtado hit some big jumpers. The senior guard scored seven of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter and Patrick Modzelewski added 12 points before fouling out with 1:41 left in the fourth.
It wasn’t just the Crusaders top scorers. Kent credited junior Brian Berrios’ defense and Wiatre said hard-working Chris Tavntzis was the difference.
“We just tried to be aggressive and get the lead back,” Feurtado said. “I tried to take it upon myself to get the lead back for my team.”
Wiatre rued his team’s missed opportunities, especially from the foul line. The Eagles failed to tack onto their lead and couldn’t stop McClancy’s decisive run because they shot 5-of-17 from the foul line.
“It’s been a consistent problem for us and it’s been a team problem, not just one person,” Wiatre said. “We’ve talked about it, that during a close game it was going to get us and it has twice to McClancy. It’s definitely a major issue.”