With Sunday afternoon’s regional final tied with just over a minute left, Nassau Community College wanted the ball in Dana King’s hands and it is easy to understand why.
Lions coach A.J. Wynder said the Valley Stream South grad is known for his calm demeanor, though it also didn’t hurt that the sophomore guard was having his best game as a collegiate player.
King scored a career-high 30 points and converted a three-point play to break a tie at 57 with 1:05 left to lead No. 3 seed Nassau CC to a 62-59 road win over top-seeded Suffolk CCC in the NJCAA Region XV basketball final at Brookhaven Gymnasium. The upset clinched the Lions’ third-straight regional title and earned them a berth in the NJCAA Division III tournament.
“We really wanted this and everyone on this team deserves it,” said King, who was named tournament MVP. He scored 20 points in the second half, including the go-ahead points on that three-point play when he was fouled while converting a layup. He made the free throw to make it 60-57. Suffolk responded with a Tyree Grimsley layup with 40 seconds left before forcing a miss at the other end, but Jalen Burgess grabbed the offensive rebound and scored with under 10 seconds left to put Nassau (26-4) back up by three.
The hosts, who were ranked second nationally, had a final chance to force overtime but Region XV player of the year Steven Tynes missed from the top of the key as time expired.
“Once we were able to get the score tied, I had to go to Dana King,” Wynder said. “Dana is a young man who is laid back and not very boisterous. He’s mild-mannered and doesn’t say much but he’s a general by action. Guys feed off of that.”
“We were just trying to keep our composure because they kept coming back,” said King, who was matched up against Tynes in crunch time. “Steve is a very good player — I used to play AAU basketball with him — and this is what we do. We battle and I just got the better end of this one.”
Patrick Gardner added 11 points for Nassau, while Grimsley scored 20 points and Tynes had nine for Suffolk, which fell to 27-3. All three of the Sharks’ losses came against Nassau.
“That Nassau-Suffolk rivalry makes this so special,” Wynder said. “I respect [Suffolk coach Victor] Correa so much because he does things the right way. It’s tough because they had a great year and somebody had to lose.”
King said he is unsure of what his plans are beyond this season, but said he is grateful to be a part of this Lions team.
“After the game,” he said, “I told everybody ‘Thank you, I appreciate you and I love you all.’ ”