Westbury's Sheldon Hagigal jumped and punched his fist in the air as his 12-footer sailed toward the basket. By the time it rattled off the back and front iron and dropped through the twine to beat both the buzzer and Harborfields, Hagigal was several feet off the ground, looking as if he were bouncing on a pogo stick.
"When the ball left my hand, I felt like it was going in," he said. "That's why I was jumping like that."
He landed in the arms of his Westbury teammates. Hagigal's shot from the right wing as time expired gave the Green Dragons a 58-56 win over Harborfields in yesterday's Long Island Class A boys basketball championship game at Hofstra. It also gave Hagigal 33 points.
"I was trying to do what I needed to get the last shot off," said Hagigal, who caught an inbound pass from Lamard Herron in the backcourt with 6.6 seconds left and dribbled inside the three-point line before letting it go. "I went full speed, shook the defender a little bit and just shot it."
It gave Westbury its first Long Island title since 1996. The Green Dragons (18-4) advanced to the state Class A semifinals Saturday in Glens Falls. Suffolk champion Harborfields, which was led by 16 points from Matt McLeod, finished 20-4.
Hagigal's dramatic final shot gave Westbury its first lead since midway through the second quarter, though it never trailed by more than six. Harborfields brought a five-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Tornadoes led 56-54 in the final minute but were 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 46 seconds.
Herron's pass was stolen with 20 seconds left, but after a pair of missed free throws by Harborfields, Hagigal's basket tied it at 56 with 10 seconds left. Herron forced a tie-up with Harborfields' Matt Curry on Curry's drive to the basket with 6.6 seconds left. That gave the Green Dragons the final possession.
"When Lamard made that turnover, I saw his face and he wanted to kill himself," Hagigal said of team captain Herron.
Said Herron, "I felt like I wanted to cry.''
Said Hagigal, "I told him we could get back in this game, and we could win it. And we did.''
Thanks to Hagigal, who scored 14 fourth-quarter points. His steal and fast-break lay-in pulled Westbury within 51-50 with 3:37 left.
It appeared as though Harborfields' big frontcourt might win out against Westbury's speedy guards. The 6-5 Curry and 6-6 Nick Fessenden each had 14 points and seven rebounds. McLeod, a 6-3 guard, grabbed seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Westbury center Luckens Victor sat out much of the second half in foul trouble and guard Paris Abrams had only seven points. But Hagigal, a 6-2 combination guard-forward, picked up the slack.
"It was a Michael Jordan play,'' Westbury coach Dave Graff said of the winning shot. "Get the ball to Sheldon and get out of his way. If they double-teamed him, then we would have pitched it out to someone for an open shot. But he brought it up and he stuck it."