It was a quiet game for Mike Almonacy . . . until overtime, that is. Then Brentwood's skilled junior guard snapped out of his scoring slumber and made some noise.
Almonacy converted a three-point play off a slick pump fake that gave the Indians the lead for good and added two late free throws to clinch an entertaining 88-84 victory over Southampton Friday night in the Suffolk overall championship game before a crowd of more than 1,600 fans at Whitman.
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"It was time," said Almonacy, who scored eight of his 14 points in the extra period to help Brentwood win its second straight Suffolk crown. "My coaches and my teammates believe in me. I didn't want to lose this game."
The Indians (22-1) will face the winner of Saturday's Uniondale-Baldwin game for the Long Island Class AA championship at 5 p.m. March 14 at Farmingdale State. Southampton (21-2) will face Malverne for the Long Island Class B title at 6 p.m. Tuesday at LIU Post.
Overtime didn't seem like a possibility when Brentwood exploded to a 23-7 first-quarter advantage. Then Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez inserted five substitutes for the remainder of the first half and Southampton cut the deficit to 34-28 at the break. "Everyone on my team is important and my subs worked hard all season," Jimenez said. "They deserved an opportunity to play in a championship game. Every kid played and I'm happy about that. Give credit to Southampton. They trapped us and competed hard. It was a terrific second half."
Both team's starters played the second half and overtime and the Mariners distinguished themselves against their large-school opponent. Isaiah Johnson was especially brilliant, powering inside for a slew of baskets and sinking three from downtown on his way to 37 points. Nasies Fulford scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime.
Johnson converted an offensive rebound in the closing seconds of the third quarter to give the Mariners a 55-54 lead entering the fourth. His biggest moment came in the final minute of regulation. After Almonacy missed the back end of a one-and-one, Johnson sank a set-shot three-pointer from the wing to tie the score at 76 with 22 seconds left. Ali Mableton, who scored 21 points for Brentwood, missed a potential winning shot at the buzzer.
"It was a good test. It gave us a little competition going forward," said Tavon Ginyard, who banked a pass off the backboard to set up Jamel Allen (23 points, eight rebounds) for a crowd-pleasing dunk that gave Brentwood a 38-29 lead in the third quarter. He also rifled a sparkling no-look pass to Mableton for a layup and a 75-71 lead with 1:16 left in the fourth.
Ginyard, who scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, and Almonacy each had 10 assists. "We have two big-time weapons," Jimenez said, "who can step up at any time."