Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
For many years, the South Shore Vikings have been one of the premier programs in all of the PSAL and in New York City basketball, period, on both the boys & girls sides. As of late, both programs have been successful.
But on the boys side, they have been super successful as of late after many years of battling against foes such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Boys & Girls for decades.
In 2018 and 2019, the Vikings won two consecutive PSAL titles and made their presence felt around the city with their strong play. There’s a chance that the Vikings could’ve won another title in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic ended any chance of that happening.
However, this season, the first full one in two years, the mission for the Vikings was simple: to win it all.
If you want to know where the story starts, look no further than longtime head coach, Shawn Mark, most commonly referred to as “Coach Smoke.”
In his years in leading the Vikings, he has produced plenty of talent out of the school in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, such as the late Ryan Preston (Rhode Island), Terrence Samuel (South Florida), Shamiek Sheppard (Clark Atlanta), Sekou Sylla (Nova Southeastern), Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall) and Femi Odukale (Pittsburgh).
Unlike many programs that have always been loaded with transfers, a vast majority of the Vikings’ players are homegrown talent that Mark coached on the AAU circuit with the Brooklyn Rens and also on the playgrounds with the NYC Broncos.
This season’s team had plenty of firepower, as they had guards such as seniors Max Ragusa, Davin Francis, Zyir Fowler and Dia Braithwaite and junior Jarrett Dingle, and forwards such as seniors Tylik Weeks, Abou Ba, Nivek Borden and Jalen O’Brien and junior Kyrone Alexander and Ibrahima Ba.
With that group of heavy hitters on their squad, South Shore went undefeated in the PSAL Brooklyn AA division with a 14-0 record, and finished the season overall at 27-3, rated at No. 4 in the New York State rankings and No. 3 in the New York City rankings, just behind St. Francis Prep and the CHSAA AA champions, Cardinal Hayes.
In the PSAL Borough championships, they played a hard-fought game against their foes from Ocean Hill, Eagle Academy II, where they would lose in the title game, 74-69, on Feb. 19th, at Achievement First High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
When the PSAL AA city playoffs, they quickly rebounded and got back to business, ensuring that a defeat like that would never happen to them again.
Starting in the second round of the playoffs, they would knock off WHEELS, 79-48, on March 4th, then it was on to the quarterfinals on March 7th, where they beat James Monroe Campus, a team they had beaten in their gym earlier in the season, 81-69.
Then on March 13th, at the Nat Holman Gymnasium on the campus of City College of New York in Harlem, they played a hard-fought game against Wings Academy in the PSAL AA semifinals, in which they would emerge victorious, 60-54.
That set up a great matchup for the PSAL AA championship on March 17th, also St. Patrick’s Day, where they would play at a hallowed ground where many kids in the borough of Brooklyn aspire to play in, the Barclays Center, the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Since winning the title in 2018, the Vikings have had plenty of succes on the Nets’ home court, even knocking off Mayfair, a squad in California, in December 2019, in the Battle in the Apple event. At the time, Mayfair had some talented and promising players in All-American guard Dior Johnson, who is committed to play at the University of Oregon next season and Josh Christopher, now a rookie with the Houston Rockets. But the star power did not faze the Vikings, as they sent the Monsoons back home with a loss.
Earlier this season on Nov. 28th, the Vikings knocked off the defending PSAL Bronx Borough champions, Eagle Academy I, also on the Barclays Center court, 69-42.
This time around, it would be another Brooklyn borough battle against Eagle Academy II, whom they would be playing against for the fourth time this season. From the moment tip-off got underway, South Shore put on the full-court press on the Eagles, of which the latter would not recover, even though there were repeated attempts to get back in the game. When all was said and done, the Vikings emerged victorious, winning 77-52, beating their foes for the third time this season and winning their third consecutive PSAL AA championship.
After that, normally, there would’ve been an appearance in the New York State Federation Tournament. But unfortunately, the state Federation canceled the tournament this season, setting the stage for the makeshift New York State Championships, in which the winner of the Independent league in all three classifications (B, A & AA), would meet up against their counterparts of the PSAL.
In this case, the Vikings would meet up against New York State powerhouse Long Island Lutheran, a nationally-ranked program who normally plays a national schedule and recently came off of playing in the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational in Frostburg, Maryland.
From the opening tip, it was a war between both teams, as both fought tooth and nail, matching each other shot for shot and rebound for rebound. Neither team wanted to go home with a loss. But in the waning seconds of the game, Alexander would hit a game-winner, as the Vikings would win another championship, this time by the score of 67-66.
This season was a very good one for the Vikings. Last season, they were robbed of a full season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as were a lot of other programs in New York City. This year, they finished with two titles. One of the questions may be, what if the state Federation tournament would’ve been allowed to be played at Fordham University’s Rose Hill Gym this season? Would they have knocked off Cardinal Hayes or the New York State Public High School champs, the undefeated Mount Vernon? We will never know what could’ve been, but we do know what was.
Now, nine seniors will be departing due to graduation, and the Vikings will return Alexander & Dingle next year, and there will be plenty of call-ups from their junior varsity team, which is one of the best in the city. What’s next for Coach Smoke and the Vikings? Only time will tell. But for the time being, they can call themselves champions.