Baldwin guard Chase Timberlake drives the paint against Hempstead guard Dwayne...

Baldwin guard Chase Timberlake drives the paint against Hempstead guard Dwayne Meadors in the Nassau Class AAA semifinals, Sunday, February 25, 2024 at Farmingdale State. Credit: George A Faella

The final seconds drained off the clock Sunday night at Farmingdale State College, and then Darius Burton had 400 reasons to celebrate. But, really, the Baldwin coach was happy for just one reason.

His second-seeded Bruins clinched a berth in the Nassau Class AAA boys basketball title game.

Baldwin defeated No. 6 Hempstead, 60-42, behind 18 points from Chase Timberlake, 13 from Peyton Howell and its typical tough defensive work.

This was also Burton's 400th win across 23 seasons as varsity coach. So what did that milestone mean to him?

“Just getting to another county championship,” Burton said. “That’s all. It’s all about the kids… It’s just a pleasure to be at Baldwin, a place where I played. To get 400 wins, it’s great. But I’ll enjoy that once I retire.”

Baldwin (16-6) owns three straight county titles, all in Class AA. The Bruins, who defeated Hempstead in the semifinals last season, will play top-seeded Port Washington (20-2) at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State. The Vikings beat Baldwin twice during the regular season.

“They’re a great team,” Burton said. “Coach [Sean] Dooley does a great job. We’ve got a week to prepare. It’s hard to beat a team three times. So hopefully I can figure something out.”

His players have faith in him.

“Great coach right there,” Timberlake said. “We’re doing it for him.”

Baldwin led 14-10 after one quarter. Then Howell and Shane Mauldin each hit a three-pointer and a 10-2 run was in motion. Mauldin also made two free throws, giving him seven of those 10 points, while propelling the Bruins to a 24-12 advantage.

“We came out of the gate hungry,” Timberlake said. “We wanted it more.”

The lead got down to 24-17 by halftime and then 26-20 early in the third. But Timberlake nailed a three-pointer to launch a 9-0 run, making it a 15-point game. The margin soon grew to 16.

“I think from the second quarter when they put the zone on, it slowed us down,” Hempstead coach Jared Weir said.

The Tigers, led by Ziyair Jones’ 17 points, cut it to 37-28 after three. But they couldn’t get it below nine in the fourth.

“We just defend every game,” Burton said.

After a bad beginning to the season, Hempstead finished with a 14-8 record.

“We started 0-4 and then we won of 14 of 17 games,” Weir said. “So it’s almost a tale of two seasons.”

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