When Turner/Carroll started the season with two key players on crutches, few could have predicted they'd be booking rooms in Glens Falls in March.
Junior guard Leonard Stokes broke the growth plate in his kneecap at a Can-Am tournament practice and sophomore guard Greg Wilson broke his leg playing football. The injuries and strength of schedule help explain why this team lost nine games and took considerable time to blossom.
The breaks have since swung in the Chargers' favor.
The Chargers will be at full strength on Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center when they play for the Federation's Class C title at 2 p.m.
Turner/Carroll (16-9) plays the winner of Friday's game between Public School State champion Sidney of Section IV and Independent champion Dwight School of New York City. Turner/Carroll earned a berth in the tournament by knocking off Salesian, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, to win the Class C Catholic School state championship last weekend.
Dwight is a small, private school in Manhattan with an enrollment of 280. Its focus is on international studies, which may explain why its roster has players from seven countries. The Tigers are led by Vedad Osmanovic, 6-foot-6 senior forward from Bosnia. The team is coached by Pee Wee Kirkland, a former New York City playground legend.
Sidney is on an 18-game winning streak. The Warriors are led by 6-7 center Jason Dorsey and 6-3 guard Eric Miley, both averaging 15 points per game.
Turner/Carroll is attempting to win its second Federation title. In 1988, the Chargers beat Stillwater of Section II, 86-75, behind the play of Kevin McCarley, James Hollis and Marcellus Hutcherson. In 1991, the Chargers reached the final, but lost to Watervliet (Section II), 82-63.
Turner/Carroll starts three sophomores and two juniors.
"Having a small school (160 enrollment), obviously everybody plays both sports, so (making the transition from football to basketball) I anticipated that we would get better as time went on," said coach Fajri Ansari. "We started the season with only four players with any varsity experience. Everybody else stepped up."
The Chargers go eight deep.
Wilson is a scrappy player who welcomes his role as team leader. Sophomore swingman Julius Page, up from the junior varsity, developed quicker than expected, averaging more than 15 points per game.
At 6-4, Stokes handles and passes the ball like a point guard and can score from anywhere on the floor. He produced five triple-doubles and one quadruple-double this season.
Sometimes, junior center Quadir Habeeb (12 ppg., 12 rpg.) looks like the player in his first year of organized ball. But the raw 6-7 1/2 , 240-pounder showed off his vast potential with a 17-point, 16-rebound effort in the Catholic state tournament.
Ka'Ron "Trooper" Barnes, a 5-11 guard (15 points, five assists per game), has been steady all season with a knack for strong performances in big games.
Clyde Wofford, a 6-2 jumping jack, and guard Brian Roddey, the only senior in the rotation, provide instant offense off the bench. Junior David Zelasko got valuable minutes as the starting point guard while Wilson was sidelined.
"In practice we help each other out," said Stokes. "If someone has a couple turnovers in a row, we tell him that mistakes are going to happen. A lot of people will say we're a year away, and that motivates us to go out and play hard."