NY Tournament Of Champs: Embattled Boys & Girls High To Play For State, National Honors

New York High School March Madness

Rutgers-bound guard Mike Taylor and his Boys & Girls teammates have already won back-to-back New York PSAL championships.

In the next week, this Brooklyn school can add New York State Federation and national tournament championship belts as well.

But Boys & Girls will have to do it without seven suspended players, including one starter and the team's sixth man.

They were suspended Monday for violating a school rule that requires all students to pass, and regularly attend, their first-period class to remain eligible for sports.

"It's the principal [Bernard Gassoway's] rules," assistant coach Elmer Anderson said. "It's up to his discretion. The kids are PSAL academically ineligible. The kids know the rule. They messed up, and that's it. We've moved forward.''

Among the players ineligible for Saturday's New York State Federation Class AA semifinal against Jabarie Hinds and Mount Vernon at the Albany Times Union Center are starter Jeffland Neverson and sixth man Anthony Hemingway.

Key backups Nkosi Brown, Dykweil Bryan and Teyvon Myers are also out.

This is the second time Hemingway has been suspended for this reason; he missed six games in December, as did point guard Antoine Slaughter. Taylor himself missed six games before coming back during the PSAL playoffs.

The students "became ineligible for a combination of two reasons: first period and attendance," Gassaway wrote in an email to the Bed-Stuy Patch. "When considering their eligibility, the tournament is irrelevant."

"It's not going to affect us at all," Anderson said. "We've got to play. We played during the year missing guys for this. It's aggravating. but we have our core nucleus."

The winner of Saturday's game will meet Omar Calhoun and Christ the King in Sunday's championship game at 2 p.m. Christ the King (22-6) received a bye into the final after winning their second straight CHSAA Class AA Intersectional title March 13 against Rice.

The Federation's Tournament of Champions brings together top teams from the state's four sanctioning bodies - the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), the Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association (AISAA), the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) and the Public School Athletic League.

Whatever happens this weekend, the season won't stop there for Boys & Girls.

The Kangaroos are the first New York team to be invited to the ESPN National High School Invitational March 31-April 2 at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Md.

"Besides [winning] the city championship back-to-back that will be the highlight of the season," Taylor said. "We are not even Top 10 in the country and they see us as one of the best."

Boys & Girls is the No. 6 seed in the eight-team event and will face No. 3 Henderson Findlay Prep (Nev.), the two-time Invitational champs, on March 31 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

Montrose Christian (Md.) is the No. 1 overall seed, with Oak Hill Academy (Va.) the No. 2.

The semifinals will be played April 1, with the final set for April 2 at 2 p.m. on ESPN.

In 2009, the Pilots captured the inaugural NHSI with a victory over Oak Hill. Last year, Findlay defeated top-seeded Montverde Academy (Fla.) 59-46 in the final.

This year's Findlay team features St. John's signee Amir Garrett, Arizona-bound Nick Johnson, Texas commit Myck Kabongo and highly regarded 6-8 junior Anthony Bennett.

In addition to the 6-4 Taylor, the Kangaroos feature 6-6 Hofstra-bound wing Malik Nichols and 5-6 point guard Antione Slaughter, the MVP of the PSAL final against Lincoln.

"It's an honor to be chosen as one of the top programs in the country to compete in this event," assistant coach Anderson said. "As we embark on our first invite to the NHSI we continue to remain focused on our first goal of winning a State Championship.

"In regards to the NHSI, we as coaches are excited but nothing tops the smiles seen on our kids' faces when we told them that we were invited. It's top level teams participating, but that's what we are used to. I really believe we had the toughest schedule in the country this year as as well as played in the toughest conference.

"I'm sure our first game will be a barnburner and the Kangaroos fans throughout the country will enjoy."

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