Year’s best in Brooklyn high school sports

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The dawn of the New Year provided us with a moment to look back on the events of the last 365 days. That’s exactly what Sports Editor Joseph Staszewski is doing as he recognizes the top players, coaches, and performances of the year in Brooklyn high school sports. Here is a look at who and what made the cut.

Program of the Year: Abraham Lincoln

The Coney Island school pulled off a rare double dip. It won the Public School Athletic League’s Class AA boys’ basketball title for the first time since 2009, and more recently earned the league football crown.

It did so as the home of two of the nation’s top recruits — Isaiah Whitehead, who will play hoops at Seton Hall, and Thomas Holley, who just committed to play football at Penn State. Lincoln’s boy’s soccer team also took home the Brooklyn A West division crown, after finishing .500 a year ago.

Athlete of the Year: Isaiah Whitehead, Abraham Lincoln boy’s basketball

The explosive shooting guard is one of the nation’s top-ranked players and ended one of most intensely covered recruiting processes in years by signing to play at Seton Hall next season.

Whitehead helped lead Lincoln to its first city title since 2009 and earned most-valuable-player honors in the prestigious Elite 24 high school all-star game this summer.

Coach of Year: Frank Marinello, Fontbonne Hall softball

Marinello and his Bonnies made history this season. He helped the Bay Ridge school win its first diocesan title — the first Brooklyn school to do so since 2004 — and reach its first Catholic state final.

Marinello’s ability to teach the game and no-nonsense approach helped develop this group into one of the city’s top teams.

Breakout star: Aaliyah Jones, Bishop Ford girl’s basketball

Jones, now at Murry Bergtraum, had always been considered the Falcons’ second-best player behind St. John’s-bound guard Aaliyah Lewis.

That changed in March, when Jones pushed herself to an elite level in New York City. She dropped in 25 points in the state final, one of nine 20-plus-point performances during the season.

Comeback Athlete of the Year: Levi Stern, Poly Prep boy’s soccer

The senior midfielder was never fully healthy as a junior after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament as a sophomore. Going from feeling 60 percent to 100 percent showed this season. Stern was one of the borough’s most dynamic players at midfield with his ability to score and distribute. He helped lead Poly to its first Ivy League title and a spot in the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association final.

Best Newcomer: Brenden Femiano, Poly Prep football

The junior running back brought his talent to Brooklyn from St. Anthony’s (LI). Femiano made an immediate impact at running back and linebacker with big plays. He scored four touchdowns against Xaverian and scored on defense throughout the season. Femiano was a key reason for the Blue Devils’ best season since 2010.

Game of the Year: Thomas Jefferson vs. Benjamin Cardozo, Public School Athletic League boys’ basketball quarterfinals

Jaquan “Son Son” Lynch hit a floater with 40 seconds left in overtime to send Jefferson to the semifinals. Cardozo was playing without suspended coach Ron Naclerio and 19–2 early in the second quarter, only to watch the Orange Wave creep back into the game. Jefferson took its first lead with 38 seconds left in regulation, but the Judges forced overtime, thanks to a tip in with 19.2 seconds to go. Talk about some high drama.

Quote of the Year: Fontbonne Hall coach Frank Marinello after his team’s state final loss

“We are not that little school on top of the hill any more. These kids made a name for themselves. Hopefully we keep it here where its supposed to be.”

Story of the Year: Bishop Ford wins school’s first Federation girls basketball title with coach suspended

Falcons coach Mike Toro had to watch from the stands in Albany as his team made history. He was suspended in February for allegedly providing improper financial benefits to one of his players, but he has since moved on to Medgar Evers. Assistant coaches Mary Gillespie and Eric Davis filled in admirably, but the Falcons players competed with Toro in mind and were motivated by his absence.

— Joseph Staszewski

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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