When Brentwood needed to accelerate Saturday, it shifted into four-wheel drive.
Ali Mableton, sometimes overshadowed by his three high-profile returning Newsday All-Long Island teammates Tavon Ginyard, Mike Almonacy and Jamel Allen, scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Indians pulled away from Baldwin, 73-61, in the featured game of the first Nassau-Suffolk Challenge played before a full house at Uniondale.
"Today was Ali's day. We had to give him the ball in the fourth quarter," said Allen, a 6-5 high-flying center who dazzled himself with 21 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and a spectacular windmill dunk after a midcourt steal that ended the first quarter and brought "Wood Nation" to its feet. That's the bright orange T-shirt crowd whose attire matches the garish color of the sneakers worn by every player on the defending Long Island champions, who improved to 11-0 and handed Baldwin its first loss after 11 straight victories.
"We played off the crowd's energy," Allen said of the final period, which began with the teams tied at 52 in a terrific contest that featured 14 lead changes and six ties to that point. But Brentwood had an extra gear, a fourth wheel if you will, in Mableton, who scored eight points in a game-changing 13-2 run that broke it open.
"We picked up our defensive intensity," Mableton said. "That's how it is with this team. When we execute, we can't be stopped. This was our best test we had all season. It will help us in the long run."
The Indians also got 11 points and nine assists from Ginyard, including a step-back three to start the fourth-quarter surge, plus five assists and six rebounds from Alomonacy, who scored only six points in his first game since crossing the 1,000-point barrier Thursday night.
The Indians have won games this season by margins of 48, 31, 68, 51, 30, 46 and 60 points, so it was quite clear from the reactions of the players and the crowd that the Bruins were not just another opponent and this was no ordinary non-league game. In fact, it might well have served as a preview to the Long Island Class AA championship. "I'd like to see that happen," Mableton said.
Baldwin kept it close for three quarters with its own four-pronged attack. Shane Gatling scored 17 points, Daraja Rodwell contributed 13 with four threes and Marvin Chartelain and Paul Nosworthy had 10 points apiece. The Bruins trailed by five after one but forged ties at the half (at 37) and after three quarters.
"At halftime, I knew if we picked up the speed of our defense with our traps and rotations, we could force Baldwin to take tough shots. And we were able to capitalize on turnovers," Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said of the easy transition baskets produced by the passing of Ginyard and Almonacy.
Mableton's prolific fourth quarter didn't surprise his coach. "The ball finds great players and Ali is a great player," Jimenez said of his 5-10 senior. "People are paying attention to him now."