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Balanced Poly avenges title game loss with win over Riverdale

Brooklyn Daily
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Poly Prep’s victory over Riverdale was sweet revenge for the teams’ last meeting.

The balanced Blue Devils boys’ basketball team’s attack led to a 56–46 Ivy League home victory over the squad that beat it in the private school state final last season. The win helped Poly avoid sliding into a losing streak after suffering a non-league defeat to Dwight over the weekend.

“We really want to get this win under our belts because they beat us last year in the championship game,” Poly sophomore forward Najee Taylor said. “Everyone was just motivated and wanted to do so well.”

He and his teammates admitted to not playing to their full potential, but it was good enough.

Ferran Brown paced Poly (9–4, 6–3) with nine points. Taylor, J.D. Levine, Wolfgang Novogratz and David Dixon each tallied eight. Michael Gardner led Riverdale (8–6, 2–3) with 15 points and Ton Ryan added 11. Blue Devils assistant coach Jamal Murphy felt his team was more unselfish than in the loss to Dwight.

“The fact that we passed the ball today, and got other people involved, that was huge,” he said.

The Blue Devils had different heroes at different key moments. Levine connected on consecutive three-pointers to give Poly a 15–5 lead after the first quarter. Riverdale responded with a 6–0 run to pull within four points midway through the second quarter. It was Novogratz turn to lead the charge after that.

He scored the final six points of an 11–2 run that put the Blue Devils up 26–13 heading into the half. Poly took advantage of some poor Riverdale shooting, turned them over with the press when needed, and didn’t allow second-chance points thanks to the play of Taylor, David Dixon, and Nick Fils-Aime inside.

“When they made a run we had to just realize and pick it up and add more intensity and play better,” Levine said.

The season has been a learning process for a Blue Devils team with just three seniors and has sophomores making up the bulk of its roster.

First-year coach Arjay Perovic, missed the contest because of a one-game, school-imposed disciplinary suspension, put the team in the prestigious Stop DWI-Holiday Classic in December to expose it to a high level of competition. It’s all in hopes of getting over the hump of three straight defeats in the private state title game, and bringing home the school’s first crown since 2004.

“Our goal is to take it to the states,” Levine said. “So I think that’s reasonable.”

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