After posting a red-letter performance, Novar Gadson got tripped up by a number.

Specifically, he was having trouble remembering the digits for his new cell phone, as recently presented, then snatched away, by his mother.

As Gadson found out last Friday, getting hit with a 1-day school suspension is not a good idea with your birthday on the horizon. On Sunday, he celebrated No. 18, though the use of that verb is at least a partial stretch.

"I still got balloons and a cake, but not any real good stuff," Gadson said, smiling. "I was hoping for a few more presents and some money. Maybe when I get home tonight, that'll happen. And I maybe I'll get back that cell phone.

"My mom [Avis] was pretty upset. I understood because I was mad at myself. I got suspended for something silly. Something uncalled for. Since I wasn't allowed to be here yesterday, I couldn't practice and that was the reason coach [James] Brown didn't start me."

Gadson definitely finished.

As John Bartram High, in time, spanked visiting Thomas Edison, 78-51, in Public A basketball, the 6-6, 210-pound senior small forward posted 31 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Twenty of those points were packed into a 28-11 third quarter, which began with the Braves somehow facing a 28-27 deficit. We say "somehow" because they dominated the first-half boards to the tune of 22-6 while also shooting 50 percent from the floor.

Gadson's outburst featured 8-for-9 marksmanship from the floor, with one of the makes a three-pointer. There were set shots, on-the-move jumpers, quick drives followed by flip shots, a finger-roll or two and, best of all for old-heads among the spectators, liberal use of the wood backboard.

"I get that from watching old George Gervin stuff," Gadson said. "He used the backboard a lot. I used to see that and think, 'Looks like a good idea.' So now I use it in my own game.

"Gervin's in my top 10 favorite players. No. 1? LeBron James."

Gadson, a lefty, has heard a certain word so often to describe his style, he now uses it himself.

"I'm crafty," he said. "People always say lefthanders are hard to cover, and I try to do that. I do what the defense gives me. Boy stays back, I'm shooting the jumper. Boy comes up, I'm taking him to the hole.

"As a younger player, I was a jump-shooter. The ability to drive is more of a new element, thanks to my AAU coaches. Now, I can do stuff I never thought I could do."

Pause. "It's like I'm pulling stuff out of my hat, like a magic man."

Gadson wasn't alone in the special-feats department as Danny Walker, a 6-5 junior leaper, just missed a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks. Also, Ishamar Malcolm hustled for eight points and 11 rebounds while Clyde James mixed eight boards and three assists and Tyreese Wheeler (same categories) had six and five.

Tyrone Garland, a promising sophomore, nailed two treys in the third quarter.

Edison received a combined 19 points from guards Luis Martinez (11) and George Baker in a 21-16 first quarter, but the Owls had great trouble hitting shots thereafter against better defense and the rebounding disadvantage mushroomed to 55-22 by game's end.

Baker, a born scorer, is still hobbled by the lasting effects of a broken right foot suffered last summer. He sat for an 8-minute stretch surrounding intermission and the swing was huge - up five to down nine (and severely fading).

Baker managed 11 points. Martinez had 18.

As the second half started, Gadson scored a fast-break basket on a pass from Garland. Next, he accepted the ball on the near wing, used a classic head-and-shoulder fake (hey, guys still know that?) to lose a defender and swooped in for an easy bucket.

"I came out fired up," he said. "It was looking like our team was going to lose. I'm supposed to be out there providing help. First I didn't start and that put a damper on the team. Then I didn't play that great in the first half."

Gadson, who lives near 59th and Chester, is being pursued by Central Connecticut, Rider and Morehead. He has visited the first.

He has also fielded calls, of course.

Perhaps by now, the cell phone isn't going straight to voice mail. *