It happened in the final minute of the first half: a signature play; a statement play; a wake-up-the-crowd play.
Brentwood raced down the court on a fast break, with Ali Mableton dribbling and Jamel Allen filling the lane on the right side. Mableton lofted the ball high, Allen grabbed it and jammed it, and the crowd roared. But the Ali-oop fired up more than Wood Nation.
Latest HS sports stories
"I feed off that. We all feed off that,'' Allen said. "I love the crowd, and that kind of play pumps us up a lot.''
Allen set an early tone with 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter and Mableton scored 18 as Brentwood defeated Half Hollow Hills West, 80-60, Monday night before more than 2,000 fans at Farmingdale State for the Suffolk Class AA (large schools) championship.
The Indians (21-1) won their second straight county title and advanced to Friday's Suffolk overall championship game against small school champion Southampton at 5 p.m. at Whitman. More importantly, Brentwood will play for the Long Island Class AA championship on March 14 at 5 p.m. at Farmingdale State against the winner of Saturday's Baldwin-Uniondale game. The Long Island Class AA winner will advance to the state semifinals in Glens Falls.
Hills West (19-3) provided an early test with its young -- three juniors and a sophomore start -- but athletic group that ran with the Indians in an exciting, fast-paced first quarter. Brentwood led 22-17 and didn't open a double-digit lead until the Ali-oop.
Junior Richard Altenord scored 14 points and Justin Leonard, the Colts' only senior starter, had 13. Hills West couldn't overcome Brentwood's 10-2 advantage on three-pointers and also had no answer inside for the 6-6 Allen, who grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.
The Brentwood junior center was a one-man wrecking crew in the first quarter. He scored the Indians' first seven points, even nailing a three-pointer, and grabbed three rebounds during the flurry.
"I had to make a statement early,'' Allen said. "I really wanted to win this game and I really wanted to establish myself.''
He had plenty of help. Mableton was especially effective on his slashing drives, including one spectacular up-and-under move in traffic. Mike Almonacy added 14 points, including a trio of treys, and when Tavon Ginyard got into early foul trouble, Zach Hall came off the bench to contribute 11 points, including three from downtown.
Mableton said the entire team fed off Allen's fast start.
"Jamel was hungry in the first quarter. He blocked shots, he jammed. He did everything we wanted him to do,'' Mableton said. "I always know where he's at on the court. I know if he jams, it gets the crowd up and it gives us momentum.''
Leading only 49-41 with three minutes left in the third quarter, Brentwood took control. Almonacy drew contact on a lefty layup and converted the three-point play. Hall knocked down a long straightaway three, Vincent Smythe fought through a tangle of bodies for a tough putback and Mableton sank a wide-open three from the corner for a 60-45 lead entering the fourth.
When Almonacy and Hall hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to open the fourth, Brentwood was on its way to the Long Island and Suffolk overall championship games again.
Said Allen, "We're not done yet.''