The twelve-team tournament, the four-team varsity division consisted of two Private School Athletic Association (PSAA) programs, Martin Luther and Avenues: The World School, as well as Cathedral Prep from the Catholic High School’s Athletic Association (CHSAA) and School of the Future from the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL).
In their first game on Saturday night, the Cougars faced off with an overmatched School of the Future, taking down the PSAL representative by a one-sided 87-45 margin.
Their Sunday night encounter was much more competitive.
An old Martin Luther foe in Cathedral Prep defeated Avenues and earned a spot in the coveted championship contest, adding to the long history of Martin Luther-Cathedral Prep encounters.
The Queens schools were led by two young head coaches, second-year MLS coach John Sanchez and first-year coach Sean Hicks on the Cathedral Prep side.
MLS jumped out to an early 15-point lead, putting immediate pressure on their opponent from East Elmhurst. Cathedral responded, utilizing their size advantage to slightly narrow the gap along the course of the championship showing.
Cathedral’s rebounding and execution sparked two late runs in the third and fourth quarter, but the Cougars kept the Crusaders at arm’s length, never allowing Cathedral Prep to come within their double-digit lead.
Utilizing their press defense, constant offensive attacking, and efficient shooting, the Cougars came through with a 10-point victory and a championship on their home floor.
Luther senior swingman Kumar Lewis, who recorded game-highs in points (22) and rebounds (10) in the championship, was named Tournament Most Valuable Player.
“The key is not the will to win, everybody has that,” said Lewis, who has garnered interest from several Division II schools, including Mercy College. “It is the will to prepare to win that is important. Coach prepared us for this tournament and we executed our game plan.”
Senior guards Cristian Reyes, Taylor Huyghue, and junior Emmanuel Bernard were named to the All-Tournament Team. In the title match-up, Reyes scored 14 points and finished with a game-best five steals.
“If we play intense defense and move the ball the way we did tonight, we will have a successful season,” said Reyes, who has interest from the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Huyghue added 20 points and two steals, and Bernard contributed with nine points. Lewis, Reyes, and Huyghue combined for 133 points in the two tournament games.
“When we play like every possession matters, we are a tough team to beat,” added Huyghue, a CM3 Elite AAU basketball standout with interest from Columbia.
Senior Evan Sepulveda also put forth a significant contribution for the cougars, scoring four points and pulling down eight rebounds against Cathedral Prep.
“This is improvement and let’s keep it going,” said Cougars senior forward Jose Velasquez. “The Martin Luther tournament was a great way to begin our season.”
All-Tournament team nominees for Cathedral Prep included Joel Edouard and Michael Remon.
“From not making it to the championship game the year before, I’m proud of my guys for beating the Avenues school and playing a hard-fought championship game against the host,” Hicks said of his Crusader squad after the tournament.
“Our team has great chemistry, and it showed this weekend,” said Sanchez. “Hard, intense defense helped us get an early lead, and execution on offense is what held that lead. Ball movement and player movement is a staple of our offense, and it always helps when you have a group who loves to play with each other.”