Sean Braithwaite (27 points) looks for an open Center Moriches...

Sean Braithwaite (27 points) looks for an open Center Moriches teammate during the Red Devils' League VII victory over Babylon on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Credit: James Escher

Center Moriches is like that shiny new car in the showroom. It comes equipped with plenty of options.

The Red Devils return four starters from the defending Long Island Class B champions who lost in the state semifinals. They have several players who can drive and dish. Some have the outside touch. Some tell an inside story. They are relentless in applying defensive pressure and when it comes to the rock, they have two common traits: They share it and they move without it.

“Coach is always preaching ball movement,” junior swing man Sean Braithwaite said. “The open shot is the best shot.”

Center Moriches had to use all of those options to hold off gritty host Babylon, 84-80, Friday night in a showdown for first place in Suffolk VII. The Red Devils improved to 6-0 while the Panthers fell to 4-2.

“We’ve been doing a great job lately sharing the ball,” Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas said, noting his team had 37 assists in a 102-44 win over Mattituck on Wednesday and totaled 23 assists on Friday night.

Braithwaite scored 27 points, with eight rebounds and six assists. Troy Goode, the only senior starter, scored 19 points with eight assists and seven rebounds. David Falco had a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) and contributed four assists. Babylon placed five players in double figures, led by Joe Rende with 19 and Aidan LaRock with 17.

“We all can score and make pretty passes,” Braithwaite said.

The Red Devils were in firm control for most of the second half, despite the misleading final score. They scored the last eight points of the third quarter to take a 61-44 lead and led 75-61 with 2:36 left.

That’s when an up-and-down game turned into a foul-shooting festival as the Panthers tried desperately to rally. They did not seriously threaten, however, and got no closer than seven until LaRock’s long three at the buzzer.

“We got a little sloppy at the end,” Braithwaite acknowledged. Babylon scored a remarkable 36 points in the final quarter, hitting five three-point shots and making 12 of 15 free throws.

In the first three periods, however, Center Moriches built its lead by scoring points in bunches, mostly from forced turnovers. “We had to match their intensity,” said Goode, the veteran point guard who scored nine points in the fourth quarter. “Defense won the game for us.”

Thomas was glad his team was tested because its margin of victory for the previous four games was 46, 70, 43 and 58. “It’s good to face some adversity,” Thomas said. “Give Babylon credit. They gave us their best shot. We bent a little but we didn’t break.”

That was never an option.

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