Malverne's Marique Merchant dries on Cold Spring Harbor's Kevin Porzelt....

Malverne's Marique Merchant dries on Cold Spring Harbor's Kevin Porzelt. (Feb. 18, 2012) Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Seven: The number of losses Cold Spring Harbor had before its first win this season.

Seven: The number of consecutive county championships Malverne had going into the Nassau Class B semifinals.

Seven: The number of points Cold Spring Harbor trailed by early in the third quarter.

The numbers weren't in the Seahawks' favor, but one way or another, they persevered to hit the jackpot.

Led by a 23-point effort from Josh Brown, No. 4 Cold Spring Harbor defeated No. 1 seed Malverne, 60-51, Saturday at LIU Post. The Seahawks, who won their play-in against Wheatley this week, move on to play No. 2 Locust Valley on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. It's their first finals appearance in 16 years.

"It's such an unbelievable story," coach John Cantwell said, choking up. "We were oh-and-seven. On Jan. 12, we were a game from being eliminated from the playoffs. They worked their butts off."

Leading the way was Brown, Ben Jay (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Bobby Vavassis (nine points), who helped craft an 11-1 third quarter run. Vavassis' putback with 1:55 left gave Cold Spring Harbor (7-12) a 37-36 advantage, its first lead since the early second quarter.

With the score tied at 38 and three seconds left in the third, Jay hit a layup off an assist from Kevin Porzelt to give the Seahawks the lead for good. This from a team that trailed 27-20 before getting a shot off in the third quarter, and found themselves behind 35-26 before that critical two-minute, five second run.

"This is a great experience," Brown said. "My teammates never gave up . . . We knew we could do this."

The Mules (11-6) hadn't lost since Jan. 27, and came in heavy favorites on the back of center Andre Berry.

"We really had to try to control him inside," Cantwell said of Berry, who finished with a team-high 16 points. "We noticed they weren't hitting a lot of threes, so [the focus] was on jamming them inside . . . In the third, we just tried to adjust our press break. We didn't do too much different on defense, but we just kept believing."

Malverne sputtered after that, hitting only five field goals in the fourth and sending the Seahawks to the line a total of eight times. Cold Spring Harbor hit 18 of 29 foul shots, and the Mules went 9-for-18.

"Our defense collapsed a little and we got in foul trouble," Malverne assistant coach Walt Askionoff said. "You can't stop a foul shot -- doesn't matter if you're 5-8 or 6-8.

"The court here is 10 feet longer and wider, so the feeling was that the burst they had would catch up to them."

It didn't, particularly thanks to a spark off the bench from Vavassis, who scored six of his points during the 11-1 run, and also had eight rebounds.

"I came in in the first half and Coach said I needed to toughen up," Vavassis said. "So when I went out again, I played with that in my head."

Vavassis had been scoreless in the first half, making his eventual spurt the most unlikely of game-changers. Not that long odds mean much of anything to Cold Spring Harbor these days.

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