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January 20, 2008

Cardozo Upsets Archbishop Carroll

Benjamin Cardozo High School started off lousy and finished lousy, but played strongly enough in between on Saturday night to edge out Washington D.C. school Archbishop Carroll, 56-55, in the Big Apple Basketball Invitational Day One finale.

Carroll jumped on Cardozo early, taking a 15-3 lead with 1:21 left in the first on a sweet crossover and assist to junior guard Rodney McGruder from senior forward Kris Joseph.

Cardozo, however, woke up at that point, scoring the last four points of the first quarter and the first six of the second to cut the Carroll lead to 15-13 at the 5:07 mark.

Two free throws by Carroll senior forward Aleksandar Mitrovic stopped the Cardozo run, but the Judges promptly went off on another spurt, using a 7-0 stretch to take a 20-17 lead with 1:46 remaining in the half. Overall, Cardozo had put together a 17-2 sequence, turning a 12-point deficit into a three-point cushion. The Judges would take that same cushion into halftime, up 24-21.

Carroll cut the Cardozo lead to one at 29-28 with 6:02 left in the third, but the Judges turned three Joseph turnovers into three fast break lay-ups to go up seven, 35-28, with 3:59 to go. Cardozo would lead by the same margin at 41-34 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

Carroll was able to hang with Cardozo thanks to its three-point shooting, and a trey by McGruder pulled Carroll within four, 41-37 early in the fourth. Cardozo eventually stretched its lead to eight, 48-40, but a jumper by Joseph and a lay-up by Mitrovic cut the Cardozo advantage to four with 2:34 remaining.

Poor free throw shooting by Cardozo would give Carroll a chance late, and Carroll guard Blake Price had a chance - shooting a pair of free throws -- to cut his team's deficit to two with 12 seconds left. The 5'7" junior could only make one of two at the line though, and Cardozo guard Trinity Fields hit one of two on the other end to make the lead four again.

Price then banked in an off-balance three to cut the Cardozo lead to one, but it didn't come until .6 seconds remained. Cardozo successfully inbounded the ball to secure the victory.

The Judges improved to 12-3 on the season on the strength of its sticky fingers and ability to score in transition. Cardozo's frustrated head coach Ron Naclerio said after the game that transition baskets have been essential to his team's success, for more reasons than one.

"Unfortunately, (scoring in transition) is what we have to do," said Naclerio. "In our half-court offense, we either run the play right and blow the lay-up, or we forget about the play. We have a lot of quickness, so we have to take advantage of that, and hopefully as the season goes on, our bigs will be able to put the ball in the basket."

Fields, the Iona-bound senior, won the game's MVP award, scoring 12 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists. Cardozo's scoring was balanced, as 7 players notched between five and 12 points for the Oakland Gardens School.

McGruder led Carroll with 15, and the Syracuse-bound Joseph added a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.

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