Knox defeated Evangel Christian, 76-64, to win the PSAA boys basketball championship at Long Island Lutheran on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Credit: Newsday / Owen O'Brien

Both the Knox boys basketball players and coaches said they played the worst half of the season during the first half of the PSAA championships. But the Falcons weren’t going to let that be how their final was remembered.

“At the beginning of the game, I told my teammates we came too far to lose,” said guard Jaden DeJesus. “I told them to keep our energy up and be ready to play. As we were down at halftime, I told them it’s still a long game. We have a lot to play. Just keep the energy going and we’ll pull out the win.”

With that, Knox outscored Evangel Christian by 15 points in the third quarter, on its way to a 76-64 victory at Long Island Lutheran, winning its second straight PSAA championship Thursday evening. DeJesus led the way in the third quarter, with 11 of his game-high 21 points coming in the period. Knox outscored Evangel Christian, 26-11, in the third after trailing 37-27 at the break.

“I felt down coming into the half," DeJesus said. “But my teammates kept me up and told me keep shooting. Be ready for it, and I was ready.”

Knox's Jaden DeJesus goes to the basket during the PSAA boys...

Knox's Jaden DeJesus goes to the basket during the PSAA boys basketball finals against Evangel Christian at Long Island Lutheran on Thursday. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

After Ismail Yilmaz’s second three-pointer and ninth point of the third quarter, Knox (18-3) took a 48-47 lead with 1:17 left in the third period and never trailed again. Yilmaz finished with 19 points.

“I think the idea of a championship game to them made them feel pressure,” said coach Majestic Mapp. “And thankfully, they stepped up under pressure.”

The Falcons outscored Evangel Christian, 23-16, in the fourth quarter, led by 10 points from Joshua Gray, who finished with 18 points, and six points from Markell Lake, who finished with 10. Gray, at 6-10, also had two emphatic dunks in the final 80 seconds, getting fouled on both.

“I just got angry . . .I just took it upon myself," Gray said. "I’m the biggest man on the court, I had to step up.”

After the comeback victory, Knox will play in the NYSAIS B Division playoffs, starting next week, as the PSAA champion.

“We fight,” DeJesus said. “We’re a tough team. We play together and we don’t give up.”

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