New York High School: Samson Usilo

Nazareth boys wins CHSAA Class B State

March, 11, 2012
The jubilant celebration can wait.

For the Nazareth boys basketball team, the newly crowned CHSAA Class B State champs after a 57-45 win over St. Mary's (Lancaster) on Saturday, there's one more goal to accomplish before it can celebrate raucously.

"They were kind of subdued because they felt that the job is not done," head coach Todd Jamison said about his team by phone. "This is goal No. 2. They want goal No. 3. They were happy but subdued because they want the Federation. I'm sure we'll work hard to get it."

Nazareth will head to Albany in two weeks hoping to win its first State Federation crown since 1989. The Kingsmen won the Class B City title one week ago with a victory over St. Agnes and have a chance to accomplish all three of their goals.

"It's huge," Jamison said. 'It's wonderful for our program and for the school since we haven't done it since 1988-89."

He added: "I think we have a good chance to win the Federation. If we do what we do defensively and take care of the ball, rebound, and play selfless, I think we have a good shot."

Nazareth (21-6) fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter early against St. Mary's before clawing back into the game. Nazareth cut the lead to two before the half and then taking control and eventually ballooning its lead up to double digits in the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Samson Usilo led the team with 14 points.

The victory was the first of two State titles for the Brooklyn school on the day, as the girls team would later claim the girls CHSAA Class AA State title with a win over Moore Catholic. At least one player from the boys team were at the game watching the girls squad.

"Who does that?" Jamison asked about two State titles by one school. "If you told me that at the beginning of the year the boys and girls would both win, I'd co-sign that. For our school and our whole community, that's very special."

CHSAA title games previews

March, 9, 2012
There are plenty of title games this weekend in New York City. Here are some brief previews of some of the title games.

Girls CHSAA Class B City final: Preston vs. Fontbonne Hall (Friday, 5 p.m.): The winners of the Archdiocesan and Brooklyn/Queens Division II tournaments will meet on Friday night to determine who faces Cardinal O'Hara for the State title Saturday afternoon. Fontbonne Hall has bested St. Vincent Ferrer and St. John's Prep on its way to the title game while Preston has defeated St. Edmund Prep and Bishop Kearney on its way.

Boys CHSAA Class B State final: Nazareth vs. St. Mary's (Saturday, 2 p.m.): Nazareth will look to win the State title at Fordham against their opponent from Lancaster. Nazareth has been the best B team in New York City's CHSAA and will look to send its school out with a title, as the Brooklyn school is scheduled to close at the end of the year. Nazareth is led by sophomore forward Samson Usilo and has a high-powered offense.

Boys CHSAA Class A State final: Iona Prep vs. St. John the Baptist (Saturday, 3:45 p.m.): Iona Prep will take on an unlikely foe for the Class A State title. St. John the Baptist was the last seed in its bracket but emerged victorious to meet Iona for the title. Iona has been a complete team that lost just three games this season while piling up wins. The Gaels have to be considered the favorites in this contest. Iona is led by sophomore Isiah Ice.

Girls CHSAA Class B State final: Preston vs. Cardinal O'Hara (Saturday, 3 p.m.): Preston will represent New York City in this game against Cardinal O'Hara of Buffalo. Preston won its spot into this game by winning the City title on Friday night with a win against Fontbonne Hall. The Panthers also bested St. Edmund Prep and Bishop Kearney on their way to the title. Victoria McCaffery is a key player for Preston.

Girls CHSAA Class A State final: Bishop Loughlin vs. Mary Louis (Saturday, 5 p.m.): A rematch of the City title game will take place for the State title. Bishop Loughlin and Mary Louis battled each for the City title Wednesday, with the Lady Lions winning 66-62 in overtime. The teams have played three times this year and Loughlin leads the series 2-1. Mary Louis is led by Jasmine Nwaji while Imani Tate guides Loughlin.

CHSAA boys Class A & B: Naz, Iona win

March, 2, 2012
The CHSAA crowned its Class A and Class B champions on Friday night as Iona Prep defeated St. Edmund Prep in the Class A title game and Nazareth defeated St. Agnes in the Class B title game. Here's the highlights from the night's action.

No. 1 Nazareth 70, No. 2 St. Agnes 47: If this is the last season for Nazareth, the boys basketball team is going out with a bang. The top-seeded Kingsmen won their first title since 1989 as they dominated second-seeded St. Agnes, 70-47, on Friday night. The Brooklyn school is scheduled to close its doors at the end of the year amid declining enrollment and financial struggles.

"It was added motivation having our school closing down," senior forward Mike Megaafu said. "Us having this championship, it's great for the school. We need something to rely on. God forbid we close down, we're closing down with a bang. We're going out with something people will remember us by."

While Nazareth coach Todd Jamison believes Nazareth will stay open, the school is currently headed to join the list of New York City Catholic schools to recently close. Each game the Kingsment have played since the Class B tournament began could have been the last in program history.

"Hopefully this won't be our last (season), I don't think it will be, but absolutely, definitely this one is special for us," Jamison said.

Nazareth (20-6) got out of the gate hot and took a 21-5 lead after the first quarter and boosted the lead to 41-17 at half. St. Agnes (13-9) simply could not keep up with Nazareth, which applied pressure defense and seemingly could not miss. Nazareth won its first title since winning back-to-back Class A titles in 1988-89.

Sophomore Samson Usilo led the way with 29 points while Shajea Stevenson added 15. Usilo had 14 of his points in the first quarter, which included a pair of 3-point shots and an alley-oop to start the game.

"He's been waiting for this game the last couple of days, the way's he been practicing," Jamison said. "When I see him come in the locker room and I see he's singing some religious hymns, I'm like 'oh boy, these guys are in trouble.'"

Nazareth faces St. Mary's (Lancaster) for the CHSAA Class B State Championship next weekend.

Iona Prep 70, St. Edmund Prep 54: Iona Prep junior guard Brandon Williams let his teammates know that he was ready to take over the third quarter of the CHSAA Class A final on Friday night against St. Edmund Prep.

"He came to the bench and was like this is my quarter boys, get me the ball," teammate Felix Abongo said. "We found him and he was knocking down shots."

Living up to his word, Williams scored 10 points in the third quarter to keep St. Edmund at bay as he propelled Iona Prep to a 70-54 win over St. Edmund Prep in the final. Williams finished with a team-high 18 points as Iona Prep won its second title in four seasons.

"It was just great," Williams said of his third quarter. "We were in foul trouble almost the entire game. We were in a one-on-one situation the whole game. It was great, I just kept attacking, that was what I had to do to win the game."

Iona Prep (24-3) led 32-18 at the half but in the third quarter, St. Edmund cut the lead to 10 points. Williams, though, was there to save the day. With his team leading 38-26, he scored 10 of his team's final 12 points in the quarter to give his team a 50-36 lead heading into the final quarter. St. Edmund fell to 20-7.

Williams has battled sprained both ankles and missed time with injuries this season, and was also in and out of the starting lineup. In his team's biggest game to date, he came up clutch and led the Gaels to their fourth CHSAA Class A title.

"I think when he gets in the flow, he gets dangerous," Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said. "Sometimes he doesn't always get in that flow but today he got in that stride and kept going."

Iona Prep will meet the winner of the St. John the Baptist vs. Canisius game in the CHSAA Class A State title game.