Harborfields senior Reed McLean scored the last point of the game Saturday.
His free throw didn't affect the outcome as the Tornadoes cruised to an 80-61 win over South Side in the Long Island/Southeast Regional Class A final at Hofstra. But watching the Harborfields players mob and gang-tackle McLean after the buzzer, and listening to the crowd loudly chant and cheer every time McLean touched the ball in the final 30 seconds, made one thing clear: That point actually was quite meaningful.
"It couldn't be a better finish for us to get back to the states and for Reed to get a point in the championship game," said Harborfields' stellar point guard, Lucas Woodhouse. "There's no better feeling for me. He's my best friend. He's one of the most social kids in school. Everybody loves Reed."
Woodhouse filled out the stat sheet as he usually does -- 18 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and five steals. John Patron (20), Justin Ringen (13) and David Ba (11) also were in double figures as Harborfields (20-2) advanced to the state Class A semifinals in Glens Falls at 9 a.m. Saturday. South Side finished 19-3.
But all anyone wanted to talk about was the McLean Phenomenon, about a kid who so loved basketball, despite limited skills, that he was the team manager for three consecutive seasons. He would have done it again as a senior, but coach Chris Agostino surprised him with a varsity uniform on the first day of practice. "He earned it," Agostino said. "He works as hard as anyone."
The joint exploded in raucous roars of approval several times after Agostino sent the 6-7 senior into the game. When McLean drew a two-shot foul, they inhaled in silence, as if the game were tied, and groaned after both shots missed.
They screamed when McLean narrowly missed a baseline jumper and a putback in the lane. Then, with 13 seconds left, McLean was fouled again. He missed the first shot, setting off another round of moans. But he swished the second one, and the bench and home crowd went wild.
"I love being a part of this. I was cheering for him so hard," Woodhouse said.
"I've scored nine points all season, but this one counted so much because it was in the championship game," a beaming McLean said. "When I went in the game, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was shaking on my first foul shot [an air ball]. When the last one went in, I was so happy."
There was plenty of joy to go around as Harborfield earned its second straight trip to Glens Falls with a dominating performance. With the score tied at 12, the Tornadoes scored the last eight points of the first period and the first two of the second en route to a 41-23 halftime lead. The margin grew steadily with a barrage of outside shots (seven three-balls), Woodhouse's passes that set up easy baskets and Patron's dominance around the rim. "We clicked on all cylinders," Woodhouse said.
McLean shared the joy ride. "I wanted to be on the court when we won because my brother played on the team that lost in 2010 and didn't get to go to states," McLean said. "So this is for you, Eric."
And for Reed, too.