It took more than three quarters for the matchup of behemoths Brentwood and Uniondale to become the hotly contested battle that was expected. When Uniondale drew to within one possession of the Indians in the fourth quarter, it became a matter of wills. Brentwood’s proved stronger.
The Indians got clutch plays from Bryce Harris, Alan Houston, Jordan Riley and Kenny Lazo in the final four minutes and edged Uniondale, 57-54, in Sunday night’s Long Island/ Southeast Regional Class AA championship game at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
The Indians (23-2), who won their first L.I. title since 2015, have won three of the last six L.I. Class AA crowns. They will face Section IX champion Kingston (21-2) at 6:45 p.m. Friday in a state semifinal in Binghamton. Niagara Falls (21-4) will meet West Genesee (20-5) in the early semifinal, with the championship game scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday.
“This team’s will to win is very high,” Riley said. “We just don’t want to lose. We just don’t want to let it happen.”
“When teams are ferociously going at it like these teams tonight,” Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said, “sometimes it’s a lucky bounce or two that makes the difference, and that might have been the case here.”
Uniondale (19-4) cut a 15-point deficit to a one-possession game on RJ Meyers-Turner’s three-pointer with 4:32 to play. It closed to within two on Jayden Freeman’s layup with 3:46 to go and got within 55-54 when Meyers-Turner (18 points) hit Rashaun Gorham for a layup with 37 seconds left.
Meyers-Turner’s potential go-ahead three-point attempt missed the mark, and Lazo was fouled with 2.8 seconds to go. He made two free throws, and Latrell Williams’ desperation three for a tie was not close.
When Uniondale first got within two, Harris (18 points) snared a loose ball and hit a layup to start a three-point play. On Brentwood’s next possession, his layup made it 52-47.
“One of the truly special things about Bryce is his physicality,” Jimenez said. “I told him that every part of his game would develop but that he has to maintain that determination.”
Houston (15 points) had a putback to keep the lead at four with 1:32 to play. Riley made one of two free throws with 54.8 seconds left for a 55-52 lead.
“I just think we needed to want it the most at the end, and we stayed together and did it,” Harris said. “Kenny’s free throws at the end? Total poise.’’
Brentwood is a team that doesn’t start a senior, which would seem to be a disadvantage. Not so, Jimenez said. “No one is worried about a game being their last hurrah,” he said. “They play hard and they play loose, and that can be an edge.”