2008-12-19 / Sports

Jubilant Far Rock Seahorses Win In OT

By Elio Velez

There was a moment last Wednesday afternoon when an exuberant crowd inside the Far Rockaway gymnasium hushed to an almost complete silence.

That was the moment of breathless anticipation with five seconds left in overtime between host Far Rockaway and Springfield Gardens.

Far Rockaway's Antoine White Jr. overcame an Eagles double team outside the three-point line. His pass found a wide open Dominique Jennings underneath the basket, who converted the bucket as time ran out in a Seahorses 64-62 Queens A East Divisional win.

Jennings, a sophomore forward, was inserted into the game in overtime when starting 6-5 center Daniel Marc Sears (17 points) fouled out. He got his chance to shine.

"It was a good pass," Jennings, who scored his fourth point of the game, said. "I was thinking layup. I had time, a lot of time. I had time to make it."

Idryis Faison scored 17 points for the Seahorses and Springfield Gardens was led by Timothy Johnson with 18 points.

As soon as the buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted and ran onto the court while Jennings was mobbed by his teammates. It was a euphoric scene.

Far Rockaway held a slim 58-56 lead with under five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Springfield Gardens' Travis Butler unleashed a desperate full-court heave at the basket to tie the game.

As time expired, Chukwuemek Okloji (12 points) grabbed the loose ball and was fouled on a reach in by Sears. An upset Seahorses team, along with an angry crowd. watched Okloji calmly sink two free throws to send the game into overtime.

Sears didn't believe the call was right.

"I saw a loose ball. He didn't have possession of the ball and I tried to go for it to end the game and they said I pushed him," Sears said.

But Far Rockaway didn't bow down to the growing pressure, which has made coach Mark Bacchus quite a happy man at times this season. He was at the helm when everything went wrong last year as the team went 0-16.

But the confidence, along with their improved play on the court, has elevated Far Rockaway to a 3-2 record and second place in the division. The players are starting to believe in their ability on the court, which is what Bacchus wanted all along to happen.

"I felt a little more down. He made both free throws. My hopes went from its high, the game is over. to now we're in a dogfight," Bacchus said.

"I didn't know if my kids' emotions would go down here or they would step it up and persevere over the adversity they faced, and they did that big time."

The chaos and the friction that was apparent to most observers in last year's team have virtually disappeared.

"We trust each other," said sophomore guard Jamal Benn. "We got heart and dedication because our teammates believe what we can do.

Accountability and responsibility seem to be the key components that have accounted for their better play. Teammates rebuked leading scorer Joel Johnson for showing off for the crowd and attempting a dunk in a 52- 43 victory over August Martin earlier in the week.

Johnson broke his right hand on the play with only 11 seconds left in the game and will be out until mid- January.

While Johnson admitted it was a hard lesson to learn with his arm wrapped up, his teammates have a growing hunger, pushing them to believe that they will be able to overcome his absence.

White, who scored 11 points, transferred back to the school after playing for the junior varsity team as a freshman. He says the team's attitude is healthy enough to make a run at the division title.

"All I wanted to do was just win, especially with the record they had last year. I just wanted to win," White Jr. said. Far Rockaway hasn't made the playoffs and acquired a winning record since going 10-5 in the 2003-04 campaign.

If they win today at home against John Bowne in the final game before the Christmas holiday break, the Seahorses could improve to 4-2 and will surely feel good about themselves during the recess.

"The crowd was into it, the kids believe and the crowd knows we have a good team. Everyone wants to come out and see a good product," Bacchus said.

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