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Heart of a champion: Down 10 late, Boys & Girls rallies past South Shore

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Antione Slaughter and Mike Taylor have been inseparable since the two arrived at Boys & Girls three years ago as freshman. The two seniors, who won a city title together last March, were apart Sunday – Slaughter on the court and Taylor on the bench in street clothes, serving an academic-related suspension.

Slaughter made sure they will be together on the court at least one more time, almost single-handedly rallying second-seeded Boys & Girls past No. 7 South Shore, 57-54, in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals at Carnesecca Arena.

“If I’m gonna lose, I’m gonna lose with my best friend,” Slaughter said of Taylor, who has missed the Kangaroos’ last six games after he failed a first-period class, breaking principal Bernard Gassaway’s rule for student athletes. “I don’t want him to not play his last game his senior year. I had to go out and do what he asked for. I want to finish off my senior year with my best friend.”

Slaughter scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and added nine assists as the Kangaroos (22-6) eliminated a 10-point deficit with five minutes remaining. Leroy (Truck) Fludd followed with 12 points and 12 rebounds, Jeffland Neverson had 11 points and Anthony Hemingway and Malik Nichols eight apiece before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Slaughter is clearly the reason Boys & Girls is still alive. He cut its deficit to three on a 3-pointer with 2:32 to go and snapped a 49-all tie with a runner in the lane off the wrong foot and in traffic with 59.1 seconds left in regulation. He also came up with two steals in the final minute.

“He’s got what you can’t teach — it’s his heart,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said. “He refuses to lose, he never quits.”

After getting out to a quick 17-10 lead, the Kangeroos struggled against South Shore’s depth and versatility. Led by standout sophomores Shamiek Sheppard and Terrence Samuel (17 points), who combined for 31 points, the Vikings took a 28-27 lead into halftime and held a commanding 48-38 lead with 5:00 left after Sheppard finished off a Samuel drive with a slam.

Lovelace immediately called timeout, reassuring her players there was time left for one final rally. Neverson and Fludd started the charge with consecutive baskets inside around a Sheppard free throw. Slaughter followed with a short jumper and Sheppard missed two more free throws. After two Wayne Martin free throws, Slaughter sank a 3-pointer from the right wing, making it 51-48 with 2:32 to go.

Neverson drew The High even at 51 on a free throw with 1:26 left and after Danny Thompson missed two at the line, Slaughter hit the game’s biggest shot, a runner from the left elbow with Doudmy Saint Hilaire and Sheppard all over him and less than a minute to go. Lovelace and assistant Elmer Anderson went with an isolation play for Slaughter after a moment of indecision.

“I just felt like as a senior he deserved to take that shot,” the coach said.

Three South Shore turnovers in the final minute kept them from possibly getting even. And it sent Boys & Girls back to the semifinals for the sixth straight season, held this past Wednesday as this paper went to press, keeping its hopes of winning another city championship very much alive.

“That’s why we’re defending champions,” Lovelace said. “They’ve been there before, they’ve been in all types of games, we played a very tough schedule. All of that comes into play in games like this when it’s one and done.”

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