Amityville guard Josh Serrano usually is quick to shoot or pass the basketball. But even after the hugs, handshakes and awards ceremony, the slick senior held tight to the rock. It was his life preserver, and he wasn’t going to let his team sink.
“This is very special for me. I’m so happy for everyone on this team and everyone in Amityville,” Serrano said after scoring 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and leading the top-seeded Warriors to their first Suffolk Class A championship since 2013 with an 83-66 win over No. 2 Westhampton before more than 900 fans at Farmingdale State on Friday night.
The Warriors (22-1) shook off a slow start to take control in the third quarter, utilizing a 12-0 run to grab a 54-33 lead. Serrano had a three-point play to start the burst and added a lefthanded layup and a crafty assist. Fellow senior Julius Goddard contributed a reverse layup and a coast-to-coast slam after a steal and had eight of his 15 points in the quarter. Another senior celebrating his first county title, Jayson Robinson, scored 17 points.
Amityville will face the Center Moriches-Greenport winner in Monday’s Suffolk small-school (A-BCD) championship game at 6 p.m. at Floyd. Then comes the real prize – the Long Island Class A championship game on March 10 at 6 p.m. at Farmingdale State for the right to play in the state Final Four in Binghamton.
“We’ve been preparing for this ever since we lost to Bayport-Blue Point,” said Warriors coach Gordon Thomas, referencing an upset loss in last year’s playoffs. “At the beginning, we were too excited and were rushing things. I told them to relax and let the game come to you.”
The Hurricanes (20-3) had one storm surge in them, cutting a 20-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to 72-60 with 3:12 left. Simon Brathwaite scored eight straight points in Westhampton’s run and 16 of his 21 in the fourth quarter. Sharp-shooting guard Jake Gaudiello led the Hurricanes with 23 points.
“During the timeout, Josh came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I got this,’ ” Thomas said. “He’s been doing it all year. He’s just an amazing player. He made me a believer.”
Serrano, Long Island’s fourth-leading scorer with a 26-point average, was true to his word. He quickly drew a foul with a slashing drive and converted the two free throws.
Brathwaite finished a bounce pass from Gaudiello in transition, but Serrano put the game away with a long three-pointer followed by a coast-to-coast layup that made it 79-62 with 1:36 left.
“I know there are times in every game that I’ve got to take over,” Serrano said.
In those moments, he does not hold on to the ball.