Over the course of three weeks, what simply seemed like another strong season for Center Moriches has taken on the look of a championship run.
The Red Devils rebounded from a strong midweek survival test from Cold Spring Harbor in their first state tournament game by overwhelming and rolling past Section I champion Dobbs Ferry, 66-42, in Saturday’s Southeast Regional Class B championship game at Centereach High School.
The Red Devils (21-5), winners of 17 straight, punched their ticket into Saturday’s state semifinals and will face Section III champion Lowville (21-2) at 11:15 a.m. in Binghamton.
“Two more wins,” said Micah Snowden, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds. “We have to stay focused now, but it is all right there for us.”
“I have to give an assist to [Cold Spring Harbor] for this one,” Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas said, referring to Wednesday’s 56-47 win in the Long Island championship game. “That game was a real wake-up call for us. We haven’t practiced with the sense of urgency I saw the last couple days. And you saw it again in this game.”
The Devils never trailed the Eagles (21-5). TyiQuon Nix had seven of his 14 points in the first quarter as Moriches burst out to a 13-4 lead. There was some second-quarter adversity to weather when Dobbs Ferry cut the score to 19-17 on a long jumper by Dimaunie Meredith (11 points) with 52 seconds to the break. Snowden then scored 11 points in a 14-2 run for a 39-27 lead with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
Sean Braithwaite, who had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists, made a steal off the press and found Snowden streaking in for the run-capping layup. The press proved critical as the Devils used superior depth, highlighted by Dylan Bryant’s many minutes off the bench, to wear down the Eagles.
“You have to be ready to do anything when you’re on this team,” Bryant said. “Since the Cold Spring Harbor game, our commitment to winning has really come out.”
Braithwaite was the go-to man as Center Moriches won the Long Island championship the past two years and then fell in the state semis (in 2017) and the regional final (in 2018). Snowden transferred in from Southampton for this season and pairing two high-profile players doesn’t always work.
“We’re a great 1-2 punch; we love playing together,” Braithwaite said. “He gives us a great inside dimension and he passes well out of the low post.”
“I’d say we’ve become the best duo on Long Island,” Snowden said.
Passing has been the key. Neither Braithwaite nor Snowden has been selfish about who takes the lead and so they have co-starred. But the unselfishness has allowed Nix, among others, to show that they are capable of owning a game in stretches.
“Coach Thomas is always talking about being unselfish and trusting in each other. He’d throw anyone out of practice who was making it about himself,” Nix said. “That those two both play that way has made us a great team.”
Thomas told the Devils at halftime that the first minutes of the third would “determine who is going to win,” and Braithwaite said “after that, there was no way we weren’t going to come out strong.”
“We’ve been to this point before and we want more,” Braithwaite added.
Two down, two to go.