Blair Academy - 57
Cushing Academy - 53
In their second of two games in less than 24 hours, the Cushing Varsity Boys’ Basketball Penguins faced off against the Blair Academy Buccaneers at the Empire Invitational in the Bronx, New York. The game was played at Mount Saint Michael’s High School and featured many of the nation’s top prep school teams drawing a gym full of spectators and fans at an early hour.
To begin the action both teams were patient on offense in trying to figure out the opposing team’s defensive strategy. The Penguins brought great energy and focus to play with outstanding discipline in the early minutes. Isaiah Gray ‘20 took a charge in the first possession of the game to set the tone for the Cushing team and to challenge the Buccaneers and their ability to get the ball inside. Bensley Joseph ‘21 and Sean Okpoebo ‘20 served as stifling defenders on the perimeter for the Penguins. Joseph was given the task of shutting down the Buccaneers most effective scorer and he did just that, holding him to 3 of 11 shooting in the contest. Jaden Bobbett ‘21, Clay Bolster ‘20, and Coby Gold ‘20 brought great energy in their minutes to contribute to the defensive efforts. Malachi Ndur ‘20, Alexis Matos-Reyes ‘21, Daniel Braster ‘20, Toby Okani ‘20, and Jack Gumbert ‘20 helped create a strong second line of defense at the forward position as they played physically to keep Blair’s 6’10” and 7’ combo of forwards off the boards. Braster led all rebounders with 8 boards while Ndur contributed another 7 boards. Cushing executed their offense to hit open threes as they crashed the glass for second chance opportunities.
Gray and Okpoebo put together some amazing highlights on separate plays in the first half. On a Penguin missed lay-up, Gray cut down the right side of the lane, elevated off of two feet, and electrified the gym with an outstanding put-back dunk. The Penguins saw an equally impressive play from Okpoebo who crashed the boards from the weak side corner, jumped to a level that only Okpoebo knows, and hammered home an emphatic two-handed tip slam. These two individual efforts helped the team earn a 15-point lead going into the half time break.
In the second half Blair had a change of pace and pushed back against the Cushing legs, which began to show some fatigue in their second game in 24 hours. The Buccaneers crashed the glass, pressured the ball, and challenged Cushing to work outside their offense. On the other end of the court, Blair penetrated the lane to earn baskets at the rim and get fouled to make the Penguins pay. The game was tight at the end, but with just under three minutes to play the Buccaneers took the lead and never relinquished it and the Penguins fell by four points with a final score of 57-53.
The Penguins will head to Andover, Massachusetts on Wednesday, January 15th to take on Phillips Academy Andover at 4:30pm.
Scoring for the Penguins:
Bensley Joseph ‘21 - 20 points
Daniel Braster ‘20 - 10 points
Isaiah Gray ‘20 - 7 points
Malachi Ndur ‘20 - 6 points
Alexis Matos-Reyes ‘21 - 5 points
Toby Okani ‘20 - 3 points
Sean Okpoebo ‘20 - 2 points
Season Record to Date: 8-3