August 2, 2017

With Star Guard Lewis Taking Leading Role, Underdog Packer Hall Wins Summer Hoops Title

LEADING ROLE: Khalid Lewis of Packer Hall All-Stars, left dribbles the ball against Majeski Foundation last Wednesday at the Community Park courts in the best-of-three championship series in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Lewis led seventh-seeded Packer Hall to a two-game sweep of top-seeded Majeski in the series, winning the opener 30-29 on July 24 and then prevailing 46-43 in the title clincher last Wednesday. Lewis was named as the Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Packer Hall All-Stars fell behind Majeski Foundation 9-0 early in game two of the best-of-three championships series in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League last Wednesday, Khalid Lewis and his teammates weren’t fazed.

“That has been an issue all season; we always start out slow,” said star guard Lewis. “It was just getting everybody to come together.”

Having gone 2-6 in regular season play and coming into the playoffs seeded seventh, Packer Hall developed an ability to finish strong. The squad upset second-seeded LoyalTees 58-51 in the quarterfinals and then edged NJAC 39-38 in overtime in the semis to earn a spot in the championship series against top-seeded and defending champion Majeski Foundation, The College of New Jersey men’s hoops entry in the league. Continuing its unlikely run, Packer Hall edged previously undefeated Majeski 30-29 in game one of the title series.

In the second game of the series, Packer Hall started digging out of the early hole at the Community Park courts with three free throws from Reggie Coleman and then clamped down on Majeski to narrow the gap to 26-22 by halftime.

“They came out hot, hitting a couple of shots back-to-back,” said Lewis, in assessing the rally.

“Defense has been our staple all year; that is what we stepped up and brought.”

During the second half, Packer Hall fell behind 38-30 but stepped up down the stretch, taking the lead at 40-39 on a Coleman three-pointer and never looked back on the way to a 46-43 win and the title.

“Our games have been close all year,” noted Lewis, reflecting on a season which saw Packer Hall post a final record of 6-6 with Majeski dropping to 10-2. “As long as we are in the game, we know we have a chance.”

In the view of Lewis, the big bucket by Coleman proved to be a pivotal moment for Packer Hall.

“We needed that little spark; I think that was the spark that turned the game around,” asserted Lewis, who hit two clutch free throws in the waning seconds of the game to help Packer Hall stay on top and ended up with 11 points on the evening.

“We played from behind pretty much the whole game. That three that Reggie made put us on top and we tried to stay on top.”

Lewis looked to be the spark plug for Packer Hall and his leadership and production was recognized when he was named as the winner of the Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP Award.

“I try to keep everybody on the same page and take care of the ball,” said the 6’3, 185-pound Lewis, a former star at Trenton Catholic Academy who went on to play college ball at Delaware, LaSalle, and University of Illinois.

“When I see someone laying off, I just reel them back in. We have got a lot of young guys on our team. When things get tight, I try to have everybody settle down and keep everybody together.”

By coming together when it counted most, Packer Hall produced one of the most unlikely title runs in the 29-year history of the summer league.

“I know nobody expected it,” said Lewis, noting that his father, Khaliq, had played and won titles in the summer league.

“I think it was like the third or fourth game that I got on the team and we hadn’t won a game and then we went 2-3 rest of the season. Everybody rallied together in the playoffs and played their role. We stepped up and got it done.”