Raymond Wardell had the ball with Babylon's season on the line when he drove the lane late in the state Class B boys basketball regional final against Marlboro Saturday at SUNY-Old Westbury.
Wardell, a forward, who said "it's always been a dream of mine to play point guard," played the part when he finished a tough layup with 21 seconds to play in regulation that tied the score at 43 and forced overtime.
Despite three Panthers fouling out, Wardell and guard Jacob Carlock combined to score 11 of Babylon's 13 points in the extra period and the Panthers prevailed, 56-49.
"There were a lot of things going through my head there at the end of regulation," said Wardell, who finished with nine points. "Coach [Chris Morra] told me to bring the ball up. We've been in situations like this throughout the year. We worked our way through it."
And because it did, Babylon (21-3) will be making its first trip to the state final four when it plays the West Hill/Norwich winner at 6:45 p.m. Friday in a 'B' semifinal at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
"I love to play as a big man," said the 6-1 Carlock, who finished with a team-high 16 points, several of which came off putbacks. "I'll do whatever it takes to get the win."
Marlboro (15-6) took the lead at 43-41 following two free throws with 2:53 left to play in regulation. Then Babylon guard Fernando Vazquez joined forward Brendan Laing and guard Alec Zamet on the bench after fouling out with a minute left.
"I'm very proud of my team," said Vazquez, who finished with 15 points. "Everyone stepped up. Coach says always be ready. I could see it in their eyes they wanted to win for me."
Vazquez's pullup jumper with 23 seconds to play in the first half capped an 11-1 run to give Babylon a 25-16 lead. The Panthers' largest lead reached 11 when Vazquez took an inbounds pass and converted a layup to open up the second half.
"He's been our leader the whole year," Carlock said of Vazquez, who made the winning basket in Babylon's victory over Wheatley in the Long Island championship. "Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do. We handled ourselves well under pressure."
Marlboro made its move with a 12-2 run to pull within 31-30 as the fouls added up and Babylon had to improvise.
"I've been telling my team all year long, you never know when your name is going to be called," said Morra, who guided Babylon to its third 20-win season in program history. "You have to get in the game and perform. They did a great job of doing exactly what they were told."