As it turned out, the easiest part of the night for Hofstra was beating Long Island traffic. The team reached Stony Brook ahead of schedule, which is saying something, considering it was rush hour. It took much more effort to beat the Seawolves, but the Pride did it, which says a lot about the team.
“It means everything, with both of our schools being on Long Island,” said Justin Wright-Foreman, who scored 33 points, including seven in a row as Hofstra took control in the final minute and a half. He and the rest of the Pride held on and held their breath as Tyrell Sturdivant of Stony Brook launched a long three-point attempt that just grazed off the front of the rim at the buzzer, leaving the final score 84-81 Tuesday night.
Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said, “I thought it would go. I thought he had a good look at it. It just came up a little bit short.”
After a back-and-forth night in the annual series that has become known as the Battle of Long Island, it was fitting that the game should be on the line as the clock ran out. A lot of things did not go according to the expected script, which made it all the more exciting. For instance, Stony Brook (4-7) had that chance to tie only because Wright-Foreman, the reigning Met Area player of the week, had missed two free throws with 4.3 seconds left.
Go figure. You would not have thought Hofstra (7-3) would have been in good shape with top flight guard Eli Pemberton being held to seven points on 2-for-9 shooting. Nor would you have predicted that Desure Buie, who played little in the Pride’s win over Rider Saturday night, would be, as Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said, “The star of the game.”
Buie, like everyone else in gold and blue, noticed that his team lagged behind Stony Brook’s intense effort early in the first half. “I knew that my time would come. I tried to stay ready. My team needed me to come off the bench and be energized. We started slow, so I know I could be a change,” he said after having scored 19 points and made one big play after another — including an offensive rebound, basket and free throw that put Hofstra up 73-68 with 4:27 left.
That is the way the early season has gone for the Pride: Unlikely heroes and timely plays. “This is a special team. We speak about this every day,” Wright-Foreman said. Mihalich added, “It might sound like a cliché but winning teams find a way to win. I hope we have that [skill], and I think we do.”
But there was much to be said for Stony Brook, too. The Seawolves shook off the scoring burst by Wright-Foreman and kept hanging in there. Jaron Cornish, a junior transfer in his first year here, and senior Bryan Sekunda kept answering and finished with 22 and 20 points, respectively. It was quite a show in front of 2,735, including Long Island legend Mitch Kupchak, the former Lakers general manager who was sitting with his Brentwood buddy (and Stony Brook alumnus) Rich Wrase.
“It was good. A fight for the Island,” Cornish said. It sure was a lot different from last year, when Hofstra won at home by 38. Mihalich considered that an aberration, adding that Stony Brook “is going to compete to win a championship of the America East.”
But for one more year, it is Hofstra that is the champion of Nassau and Suffolk.