Taylor Sanders rises to the occasion as Southampton wins Long Island Class B championship

Southampton's Taylor Sanders drives inside in the Class Southampton's Taylor Sanders drives inside in the Class B boys basketball final against Wheatley on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Taylor Sanders didn't win the "shootout." But the Southampton senior guard made sure his team won the game.

Sanders hit 7 of 10 three-pointers and finished with 24 points as Southampton beat Wheatley, 61-58, to win the Long Island Class B championship Tuesday night at Farmingdale State College.

Southampton (17-5) will play in a regional final at 8 p.m. Friday at Beacon High School in Dutchess County.

Amazingly, Sanders wasn't the best three-point shooter of the night. That honor belonged to Wheatley's Kevin Martins, who nailed 9 of 12 treys and finished with 29 points.

"It was a good old-fashioned shootout between me and him," Sanders said. "He's one great shooter also and he made me want to try and keep hitting to keep up with him. I did my best, but I know he had a couple of more."

Martins' final trey came with 8.9 seconds left to make it 59-56. But Sanders' free throws with four seconds left sealed the win.

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"Those were some big free throws for us because it helped us pull away and got the crowd excited," Sanders said.

Southampton's best player, Shaundell Fishburne, had 13 points, but was playing on a sore right ankle, according to coach Herm Lamison. Nonetheless, Southampton played its style of transition basketball well, especially early on, and dominated the boards.

Southampton's smothering 3-2 zone defense, led by Nasies Fulford, who had 12 rebounds and five blocks, forced a slew of turnovers and tough shots. "This was our kind of win because we did a lot things right that we had planned on," Sanders said.

Southampton led 47-36 after the third quarter, but Wheatley cut the deficit to six after a 9-0 run with about three minutes left in the fourth. Sanders ended that with a three-pointer from the right wing to make it 57-48.

Josh Hyon added 13 points for Wheatley (12-7) and was a key contributor playing point guard down the stretch. Before the game, Wheatley coach Jim Curcio alluded to the fact that Martins could have a big game.

"His three-point shot is just so good. He's the best scorer we have," Curcio said. "He's had a phenomenal season for us because of how much he's worked on his shot this season."

Sanders said the win was far more important than a few more made three-pointers.

"For a while, my shot has been off, but I worked real hard to get it back," Sanders said. "This was the LIC and I knew I needed to help my team because they wanted to reach the top."

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