Volume 17, Number 39 | February 17-23, 2005


Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert
I.S. 89 Cougar Grits Gittens, 14, pushes the ball up against East Side Middle School in the Saturday tournament at French Lycee. The boys team won the tournament and is 10-1 on the season.
Red hot Cougars take tourney title

By Zachary Roy

The I.S. 89 Cougars boys (10-1) won their division and the girls (5-4) placed second on Saturday in the SwisHoops Middle School Tournament at the French Lycee of New York School on 75th St. and York Ave.

Coming off a home win over Clinton two days earlier, the boys were confident, but head coach Blake Hepburn of Manhattan Youth after-school program questioned how his team’s focus would hold up over the three-game event. The trio of eighth-grade standouts – guard Grits Gittens, guard Tyler Sinclair, and forward Robby Duran – answered with dominating play all day.

Duran scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Sinclair added eight points in the squad’s 41-12 first-round triumph over East Side Middle School, who they had beaten earlier in the season.

Sinclair was the Cougars’ catalyst on both ends of the court. “He doesn’t always score the most, but he gets the steals, assists, and rebounds, and he is the fuel for the engine,” Hepburn said.

In their second game, the Cougars faced The School of the Future, another opponent they had already beaten this season. This time around, Gittens shined in a 56-24 win, racking up 14 points, while Sinclair swiped seven steals.

Excitement from players and parents mounted as I.S. 89 clashed with I.S. 151 from the Bronx, in the title game. The Bronx boys presented one of their toughest match-ups of the season, but the Cougars pulled away to a 36 20 win on the strength of Gittens’ 11 points, and Duran’s second 10-rebound game of the tournament.

“We won the last game with tenacious defense,” Hepburn said. “I have been really preaching defense since the (preseason) September clinic and it paid off Saturday.”

“It was a powerful day, because in order to win, the guys had to maintain their concentration and intensity for three games. Everyone was really happy.”

Cougar Paula Berenguer, 11, left, applies tough D against East Side Middle School. The girls team took second place in the tourney. Qituwra Muhammed, 13, goes up for the shot, right.

Girls come in second

The girls tipped off the tournament with a 25-12 victory over East Side Middle School. “It was our best game,” said head coach Cecilia Dobbs of Manhattan Youth. “The girls did a great job of playing together as a team and passing the ball.”

Careful not to overextend her players in their first-ever tournament, Dobbs rested the starters for most of the second game. The Cougars bench led the way to a 42-4 drubbing of P.S. 6., setting up a showdown with School of the Future for the championship.

After falling behind early, the Cougars mounted a second-half comeback, but ultimately fell 25-14. “Future was a tough opponent and they played spectacular as a unit. [The Cougars] were really pretty disappointed afterwards,” said Dobbs.

Despite the girls’ disappointment at finishing short of the title, Dobbs was pleased and feels that the tournament was a good experience for the team as it heads into Thursday’s game against Tompkins Square Middle School at I.S. 89.

The boys’ will go for their 11th win on Thursday, also at I.S. 89, where they will play The Academy of Science for the first time in their history.

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