It was the biggest play of the game, but for several anxious, agonizing moments at Northport on Tuesday night, none of the players and no one in the large crowd cared about the score.
“Your heart skips a beat when you see a player lying on the floor like that,” said Northport’s Curtis Lafond, who took a long inbounds pass from Sean Walsh and dunked, drawing a foul from Central Islip’s hustling Darryan Fuentes, who was hurt on the play. Lafond made the free throw and the Tigers held on to defeat Central Islip, 69-66, in a key Suffolk AA-II game that left both teams at 5-1.
Fuentes landed hard, hitting his head on the floor and lying motionless as a hush fell over the crowd and both teams returned to their benches to watch and worry.
“It was pretty rattling,” Northport’s Dan Melamerson said.
The game was delayed for about 20 minutes as Fuentes was treated first by a Northport trainer and later by emergency personnel from the East Northport Fire Department. Fuentes was instructed to lie still, which heightened the anxiety. But Central Islip coach Larry Butzke said later: “He was lucid the whole time, answering all the questions. I think he might’ve hurt his elbow when he landed and he’ll go through concussion protocol. Fortunately, we think he’ll be all right.”
Fuentes was taken to Huntington Hospital as a precaution and was diagnosed with a concussion. He was sent home and Butzke said he’ll be out a week. When he sat up, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the fans and players on both teams.
“It felt weird at first to come back and play,” Melamerson said of the final 1:23. The Tigers had erased a 52-45 deficit to start the fourth quarter and led 61-60 when Walsh connected with Lafond, who had gotten beyond the pressure defense.
“It was a set play. We knew there was no one deep and I knew he’d be open,” said Walsh, who had 18 points. So did Lafond, who also grabbed 10 rebounds. Melamerson had 13 points off the bench and his brother, Ian, had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Musketeers, who led by 15 points late in the second quarter, had four players in double figures, led by Javal Staton with 17 and Angel Jimenez with 16. Fuentes scored 12.
“We’re all thinking about Fuentes right now,” Northport coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “It was a tough injury to see.”