Steve Ascher tipped in a missed shot by Cody Huntley just before the buzzer sounded to give the Tuckers a 68-67 victory over Malverne in the Long Island Class B title game Wednesday night at SUNY-Old Westbury.
Mattituck (16-6) faces Goshen Burke Catholic in the state Southeast Regional final at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Farmingdale State. The winner earns a trip to the state Final Four March 18-20. Malverne (18-2) has won six straight Nassau titles and had won the previous four Long Island crowns.
"It's just amazing. It's something I've been fooling around with in practice," Ascher said of the tap in traffic after Huntley's miss of Ascher's missed free throw with four seconds left rimmed out. "We just didn't want to lose."
That was evident in a furious fourth-quarter comeback. Malverne seemed to be in complete control when Xavier Bernard scored a layup to put his team ahead 64-52 with 5:10 remaining. But in an ironic twist, it was the Tuckers (16-6) who climbed all the way back by employing all-court pressure defense, a trademark of Malverne.
The surge began on Huntley's reverse layup that triggered a 9-0 run that cut the deficit to 64-61. Ascher (22 points) scored three in that two-and-a-half minute burst and his twin brother Tom (16 points) contributed a steal and layup.
Alton Kelly finally ended a drought that lasted 4:32 with a basket inside that made it 66-61. But then Tom Ascher rolled in a layup to make it 66-65 with 13.2 seconds left. Bernard made one of two free throws for a two-point Malverne lead.
Steve Ascher was fouled with 4.2 seconds left and went to the line with a chance to tie it. With the Malverne fans screaming as he shot, Ascher hit the first free throw to cut the deficit to 67-66. Malverne coach Darrol Lopez then called a timeout.
Ascher missed the next free throw, but Huntley fought for the offensive rebound and his fadeaway rolled out. Ascher leaped from the left side, flicked the ball to the hoop and tumbled to the court in delight as it banked in.
There was a brief huddle by the officials on the court and they confirmed that the shot counted. The 'good signal' prompted the Mattituck crowd to break into its patented three-syllable "Matt-I-tuck, Matt-I-tuck, Matt-I-tuck!!!" chant.
Those chants will echo in Wine Country for a long time.