LWA seeks third state title


With five games remaining, the Lawrence Woodmere Academy Tigers have played like a team not ready to relinquish its crown as one of New York’s top independent boys; basketball programs.

Led by the nationally renowned Aidan Igiehon, who, last October, formally committed to play collegiate basketball at the University of Louisville, the 14-4 Tigers appear primed to compete for their third straight state title when the New York State Association of Independent Schools announces its tournament field later this month.

“We came into season with really high expectations,” said head coach Jeff Weiss. “It’s an experienced group, but we have a lot of youthful talent as well. We expect to be there at the end vying for a title.”

The Tigers opened their season in late November with five straight wins. On Jan. 5, they defeated St. John the Baptist, 86-38, at the Nassau Coliseum. Igiehon, who’s averaging 24 points-per-game, led all scorers with 29 points.

At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Weiss describes Igiehon as a “generational high school player.” The Irish-born athlete has been a varsity starter for the Tigers since he was in eighth grade, and for the past year has been recruited by top Division-1 colleges across the country. The senior has been one of the three staples in the starting lineup all season alongside fellow seniors Tyler St. Furcy and Malik Speckman.

“He’s a wonderful kid,” Weiss said of Igiehon. “He’s humble and a great player. It’s just been a pleasure to coach him I couldn’t think of a nicer superstar to have on your team.”

St. Furcy, a 6-4 guard who has committed to playing at Marist College, and Speckman, 6-7, are also dominant high school players who excel academically, said Weiss.

The Tigers have also received stellar contributions from junior John Malinka, sophomore Maurice Butler, sophomore Jasigha Barnes, senior Andrew Richards and sophomore Larry Rhabb, who have rotated in and out of the starting lineup. 

“My personal prerogative has been for 30 years is that academics come first,” Weiss said. “And if they’re here, they know they’re going to work hard at basketball.”

The Tigers last win came on Monday at Staten Island Academy, 60-41. They’ll host Far Rockaway for an annual rivalry game on this Friday before hosting two New York City-based teams, Inwood Academy and Fieldston High School, on Feb. 2 and Feb 4, respectively. It will be the first time the school has ever played Inwood. Two days later, they’ll play another first-time opponent in Salesian High School in New Rochelle, before wrapping up their regular season at Trinity-Pawling School in Dutchess County on Feb. 11. 

Each game, Weiss said, will be crucial for postseason positioning. Days after their regular-season finale, the Tigers will learn if they are one of eight that qualified for the annual state independent tournament.

Winning that tournament would propel the Tigers to the Federation basketball tournament of champions in Glen Falls in March, where last winter they lost by just three points to the tournament’s eventual champion, Fannie Lou Hamer.