To understand Tristan Brown, you must go beyond his facial expressions.
After he made a big basket or pretty assist during Wednesday's game, Brown was noticeably excited. After a costly turnover, the Elmont senior was visibly agitated.
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And after nearly every play, whether it directly involved him or not, Brown was animated in some way.
There's a reason.
"It's because everything matters to me," Brown said after host and second-seeded Elmont beat No. 10 Massapequa, 69-62, in a Class AA quarterfinal game.
Elmont (14-3) will play No. 3 Uniondale in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Wednesday at SUNY Old Westbury. As the lone player left from the Elmont team that won the Nassau AA championship in 2011, what's of most importance for Brown is making sure his squad returns.
"I've been to a championship and I know what it takes to get there," said Brown, who had 18 points and seven assists. "Sometimes it shows that I'm mad because I have to remind everyone what it takes."
Like showing teammates how to make wise decisions.
After trailing for most of the first half, Elmont finally took the lead during the closing seconds of the third quarter. While dribbling the ball, Brown waved off Keith Tompkins, who was about to set a screen for him. Instead, Brown instructed him to find a spot along the three-point line for a shot. Brown then penetrated, drew a double-team and hit Tompkins, who buried the trey and put Elmont ahead 47-46.
"I knew that it was coming for me because Tristan always thinks pass first," said Tompkins, who scored 11 points, including nine in the second half. "He led this win. He's our captain and his style of leadership kept us in this game mentally. He kept yelling at us to lock up on defense and that's how we started to win."
Elmont pulled away with a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter by rebounding better, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. Brett Walker was a key contributor with 11 points and five steals.
Alex Cosenza had a game-high 29 points and Dylan Balducci scored 20 points for Massapequa (11-8). If not for Brown's growth as a passionate leader, the efforts of Cosenza and Balducci might have been enough for an upset.
"I've learned a lot," Brown said. "In the past two years, we lost and that taught me a lesson. I felt like I had to play harder. And at this point, I'm trying to never argue with my teammates or get down on myself."