Christian Hyon held on to the ball, took his time, and at the second-quarter buzzer, drained a three from the top of the key with what seemed to be the greatest of ease. Shortly after, midway through the third quarter, Andrew Tripi broke free for one of his many fast-break baskets. Minutes later, he did it again. A few seconds after that, he did it one more time.
Saturday night at LIU Post, a well-oiled Wheatley boys basketball team made even the difficult things look easy. Winning the Nassau Class B title? Add that to the mix, too.
Behind Tripi's game-high 20 points and Hyon's masterful ballhanding, the No. 1 Wildcats deftly turned aside second-seeded Oyster Bay, 56-35, to advance to the Long Island championship game against Babylon, March 5 at SUNY Old Westbury. And though the margin of victory makes it look like an easy victory, the truth is that this was the same Baymen team that beat them by four points only two weeks ago.
"I think it came down to what we did on the defensive end," said Hyon, who finished with 10 points. "We located the threats -- tried to cut down on their lefty [David Carl] by forcing him to go right . . . we stuck to our double teams and we never lost intensity."
This is Wheatley's first county title since it took the Class C championship in 2001, coach Jim Curcio said.
Hyon, the senior point guard, added that by focusing on Carl on the inside and the Baymen's main shooter, Nick Carbone, they were able to smother any chance of a comeback.
"When we lost, we were letting them get their threes," he said.
It worked spectacularly. Oyster Bay (15-4) never led, but drew to as close as a point on Carbone's three-pointer midway through the first quarter. Tripi's baseline three with 1:48 left in the first quarter put Wheatley (15-4) ahead by five, and the Wildcats never looked back, scoring the next eight points, capped by Alex Israel's putback with 5:11 left in the second quarter. After back-to-back treys by the Baymen's Carbone and Austin Seaman, Wheatley scored six more for a 27-13 lead. Another three by Hyon gave Wheatley a 16-point advantage at the break.
A backbreaking 18-8 third quarter -- half of Wheatley's points were scored by Tripi -- all but sealed the victory.
"It was a little surprising to win by such a big margin," Hyon said. "But we knew how important this game was and how much it meant . . . So I guess we're not really that surprised."