March 4, 2017 at Hofstra
#1 Elmont 58 – #3 Southside 56
I didn’t play yesterday.
I didn’t coach.
It’s the next day, and as a fan, I still feel terrible for the players, coaches, and fans of Southside high school in Rockville Centre.
The Cyclones staged a brilliant fourth quarter comeback, outscoring Elmont 18-7 until the final 1:30 of the game.
There were 3 highly questionable calls made against SS in that last minute and a half that swung the County trophy into the hands of Elmont.
The Spartans are , of course, worthy Champions.
Their record now stands at 20-4 as the prepare to face the Suffolk County Champion, Southampton.
Elmont controlled this game, winning each of the first three periods and heading into the fourth with a 45-38 lead.
Credit to freshman guard, Jevon Santos ( 9 points) for finding seems in SS’s zone combinations and leading his team in the absence of their star, Victor Olawoye.
Victor sat forlornly near the end of the bench, having sustained a severe ankle injury in the previous contest.
Imagine his plight. A teenager, truly the heart and soul of this Spartans team in every game this year, unable to lead his team on this large stage.
As Southside roared back in the fourth, on big 3s by Patrick Basile ( 11 points ) and Ryan Pendergast ( 12 points ) Victor’s frustration and sadness were tangible.
And, I agree with his apparent view in those 4th moments ….. it wouldn’t be sifting through the Spartans hands if he were out there, on the Hofstra floor, deftly handling the whirling pressure of the Cyclones.
Elmont’s other All County performer, KC Ndefo ( 22 points ) was the reason for the #1 seed’s steady play yesterday despite the missing Olawoye.
KC rebounded, hit a 3 , blocked shots, and threw down two monsterous dunks!!
Elmont’s Ismael Astasie added 13 key points.
But, just when it seemed Elmont would win their second straight Nassau A title, the grit of the Southside players changed the game.
Their full court pressure is expertly executed.
Energized by steals and turnovers, the Cyclones gained a jolt in their offensive efficiency...moving the ball, finding the open man , making shots.
Brandon Grayson ( 12 ) Dami Awosika (10 ) and Ryan McCarthy ( 10 ) balanced the Cyclones attack.
Southside led 56-52 with 1:30 to play.
Their hundreds of fans were delirious throughout the fourth quarter surge!
As Elmont missed a free throw , the rebound tipped out of bounds. The baseline official awarded the ball to Southside. Another ref ran in from the hash mark and changed the possession to Elmont. They went down and scored.
On the following possession, Dami Awosika seemed to be hit, once, twice , but then was whistled for a charge.
Elmont ball. Again they score, tying the game.
After a SS miss, Elmont gets the ball over half court and calls a time out with 2.8 seconds.
KC Ndefo flys into the lane to tap in a missed jumper ……… the buzzer sounds, the backboard light is on ….. the officials count the basket. Game Over. Elmont Wins.
Cell phone and iPad videos on the scene immediately circulate amongst the crowd showing KC’s hand still on the ball, red lights ON.
There’s this vague concept often heard at these games that the “players should decide the game”.
Obviously, Elmont benefited from 3 official decisions very late in this game.
A four minute overtime period would’ve been fair for both of these talented and determined teams. Apologies to Southside.
Congratulations to the Elmont Spartans.
And we hope that Victor Olawoye recovers in time to play versus Southampton.
Reported by Tom Rottkamp (This story is printed with permission from Tom Rottkamp and NassauBasketball.com)