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Alex Merhige helps Harborfields edge Amityville

Harborfields players celebrate their 49-47 win against Amityville

Harborfields players celebrate their 49-47 win against Amityville in a Suffolk boys basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The teams traded baskets, turnovers and timeouts in the frantic final minutes of Tuesday night’s first-place showdown between Amityville and Harborfields that was dramatically different from the previous meeting. This one actually had drama.

“We definitely expected a tougher game,” Harborfields forward Alex Merhige said, referencing the Tornadoes’ surprisingly easy 40-point triumph on January 12. “This kind of a game is a lot of fun.”

It was a lot more fun Tuesday for Merhige, who scored 15 points, including the clinching free throws with 1:41 left, and grabbed 19 rebounds in host Harborfields’ difficult 49-47 victory. With Harborfields alumnus and current Stony Brook star Lucas Woodhouse watching from behind the bench, the Tornadoes improved to 12-1 and moved closer to clinching the Suffolk V title and top seed for the Class A playoffs. Amityville fell to 11-2.

Josh Serrano, the No. 2 scorer on Long Island who entered the game averaging 26 points, managed only 16 against Harborfields’ swarming 2-3 zone. But the Warriors’ guard came up big late, hitting a long three-pointer, a breakaway layup and whipping a pass to Julius Goddard (12 points) for a layup that cut what had been a 14-point third-quarter advantage to 49-47 with 37 seconds left.

After an exchange of turnovers and empty trips, Amityville gained possession on the frontcourt sideline with 3.5 seconds left. Amityville first, then Harborfields, called timeout. Clearly, the ball would be in Serrano’s hands. “We had a foul to give and we were going to foul him as soon as he touched the ball,” Harborfields coach John Tampori said. “But Kyle [Stolba] got lucky and wound up getting in the way of the pass.”

Stolba was able to deflect the ball and grab it away from Serrano and the clock ran out on Amityville. “I was happy with our defense and our rebounding,” Tampori said. “Of course we were aware of Serrano all night. He’s a great player. We ran Kyle out on him and sometimes it was almost a 2-1-2 with a guy in the middle taking away the penetration.”

Harborfields point guard Shane Wagner withstood Amityville’s man-to-man pressure for most of the game, and contributed nine points and 10 assists. Joe Kelly added nine rebounds and eight points inside.

“Rebounding was the biggest part of the game,” said Merhige, who acknowledged he had trouble getting touches. “They were face-guarding me and they didn’t give me much room, especially in the second half. That’s why every offensive rebound was big.”

It was after one of those that Merhige drew a foul and converted both ends of the 1-and-1 for his team’s final and decisive points. “I knew we needed them,” he said.

Just for fun.

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