Wheatley had experienced too much pain at the hands of Carle Place.
A double-overtime loss. A 14-point defeat. Three losses last year.
An exit in the Nassau Class B boys basketball semifinals would have pushed the Wildcats beyond their threshold, and they would not let that happen.
“If we lost, it would have been tough because we knew we could beat them,” senior Anthony Cutinella said.
Wheatley, the No 3 seed, never trailed and held a double-digit lead for 28 minutes in its 56-17 victory over No. 2 Carle Place on Saturday at LIU Post.
The Wildcats, who won county titles in 2013 and 2014, will face the winner of No. 1 Oyster Bay and No. 4 Malverne at LIU Post on Thursday at noon.
Wheatley (7-13) took a 10-0 lead on three-pointers by Michael Baltzer (nine points) and Cutinella (14 points) and two layups by Hunter Pomerantz (eight points).
Carle Place did not score until Chris Kelly (six points) split a pair of foul shots with 3:01 left in the first quarter, but the Wildcats answered with nine straight points to take a 19-1 lead into the second quarter.
Cutinella’s jumper with 7:28 left before the break gave Wheatley its largest lead of the half at 21-1.
Liam Pizzia’s three-pointer with 7:07 left in the half was Carle Place’s first field goal. Pizzia also assisted on a pair of threes by Nate Armstrong, whose right-wing trey with 3:06 remaining cut the gap to 25-11.
The Wildcats led 30-13 at halftime.
“In the first two games, they came out just hitting threes, lighting it up from the outside,” Cutinella said. “We knew that if we could stop their shooting, we would have success.”
In the critical first few minutes after halftime, Carle Place could not reduce the deficit. Instead, Wheatley went on a backbreaking 12-0 run over the first 6:48 of the third, fueled by Cutinella’s five points.
“We knew if we were able to dominate those first few minutes, we’d have success in the rest of the game,” Cutinella said.
The Wildcats were determined to make that happen. Another loss to Carle Place would have been too much.
“The double-overtime game early in the season, that didn’t sit well in [our] minds,” coach Jim Curcio said. “The fact that we didn’t play well the second time against them, we were real ly pointed toward this.”