Fernando Vazquez scored on a driving layup with 5.3 seconds remaining to give Babylon a pulsating 56-55 victory over Wheatley Tuesday night in the Long Island Class B Championship played before a roaring crowd at SUNY-Old Westbury.
"I drove it all night. I was getting fouled every time. So it was make or miss or get fouled," said Vazquez, who led all scorers with 23 points. "It was the best shot of my life. It's the first time I've ever had the ball in my hands at the end of the game."
There was never a doubt about who was going to have the ball after Wheatley's Joshua Hyon nailed an in-your-face three-pointer to put the Wildcats ahead 55-54 with 16.1 seconds left. "It's a play we run all the time. We call it 'Duke,' " Babylon coach Chris Morra said of the play he drew up during a timeout. "We set a high screen at the three-point line and Fernando made a great move to his left."
The victory gave Babylon the Long Island championship in football and basketball, and All-Long Island receiver/defensive back Jake Carlock was a participant in both title games. "I had no idea last summer that we would win it all in football and basketball," said Carlock, who scored 11 points. "Basketball might have felt a little better because it was such a close game. But Fernando has come up clutch all year. I was waiting for the kick-out pass but I was fine with him taking it all the way."
The Panthers (20-3) advance to the state Class B regional final at noon Saturday at SUNY-Old Westbury against Marlboro, which beat Our Lady of Lourdes, 46-44, in overtime. Wheatley, which got 38 points from the Hyon brothers -- 20 by senior Christian and 18 by sophomore Joshua -- finished 15-5.
"Those Hyons brothers can really play. They did a great job bringing them back," Carlock said.
Babylon led this crisply played game 47-37 entering the fourth quarter, but three-pointers by each of the Hyons sparked a rally. When Alex Israel grabbed an air ball and scored, it moved the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the second quarter, 52-51.
Vazquez made one of two free throws to tie it and on his free-throw miss, Brendan Laing made a huge offensive rebound and scored on a bank shot to put the Panthers back on top 54-52.
Wheatley called time with 32.2 left and ran the old-school weave. Joshua Hyon took a handoff from Christian Hyon and nailed a dramatic trey right in front of the Wheatley bench for a 55-54 lead.
After Vazquez answered with his sensational drive, there was just enough time for a New Rochelle-like miracle shot, but Christian Hyon's heave from beyond midcourt fell well short.
"We actually worked on that in practice," Morra said. "But he still got off the shot."
Added Carlock, "That's exactly what I thought about when the shot was in the air. Then I saw it was way off."
The Panthers could celebrate. They were kings of Long Island. Again.