Isaiah Blunt scored 14 of his 16 points in the...

Isaiah Blunt scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Rams came back to beat Locust Valley on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Credit: James Escher

West Hempstead went from down 11 in the second quarter to up 10 over Locust Valley with 4:15 left in the game. Who knew there would be such a sweaty finish?

The lead shrunk to two with 30 seconds left, but the Rams held on to take a 68-64 home win Friday night and climb to within a half-game of first-place Cold Spring Harbor in the Nassau ABC-VIII boys basketball race.

West Hempstead’s Anthony Graffeo-Jackson scored 14 of his 27 points in the third quarter. Evan Wilson went 6-for-6 from the line and scored eight of his 19 in the fourth. And Isaiah Blunt scored 14 of his 16 in the last eight minutes.

“We have the talent,” Rams coach Eric Rubin said. “ . . . When they work together and play hard like they did tonight, they’re a really good team.”

After the program won eight games in seven seasons, Rubin took over and won eight last season as West Hempstead made the playoffs. Now this Class B team is 12-4. It’s 7-3 in the conference with four to play, just like Locust Valley and Carle Place.

Cold Spring Harbor is 7-2 and visits West Hempstead on Thursday.

“Destiny is in our hands if we can win out,” Rubin said.

Class A Locust Valley is 10-6 overall, including a win against the Rams.

“I think we’re a step below our peak, but we’re going to get there in two weeks, which is exactly when we need to be,” Falcons coach Andrew Siegel said. “We’re in good shape.”

It was 58-48 Rams before Preston Appel, who scored 18 points, made three three-pointers to key a 14-6 comeback run. The third sliced it to 64-62.

Both teams followed with empty possessions. Wilson then made two free throws with 9.5 seconds left.

Mike Hancock was fouled on a three-point try with 1.2 seconds on the clock. He made two to cut it to 66-64, then had to miss. Blunt was fouled on the rebound at 0.1 and sank two to finish his big fourth quarter.

“I felt like it was just time to step up and just take over,” he said.

West Hempstead trailed 28-17 in the second quarter, then got it down to 30-22 at halftime. Graffeo-Jackson’s big third quarter helped the Rams outscore Locust Valley 24-12 and go up 46-42.

“I really wanted to win this game,” Graffeo-Jackson said. “ . . . I felt like we had to take care of business.”

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