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Charles helps Uniondale hold off Baldwin for Class AA title

Uniondale's Bolade Akingboye (15, center), goes around Baldwin's

Uniondale's Bolade Akingboye (15, center), goes around Baldwin's Dominique Aberdeen (32, left), and Tziah Wood-Smith (42, right), during their Class AA Championship Game. (March 6, 2010) Credit: Photo by Richard Slattery

In his ears was a deafening roar from the Baldwin crowd hoping to see a comeback completed. But Uniondale's Goey Charles stepped to the foul line at Hofstra with 8.7 seconds left with a clear mind: "I have nothing to lose," he thought. "This could be our last game."

Turned out it wasn't. Charles made two clutch foul shots to give Uniondale a three-point lead and Baldwin's Ashanti DePass hit the back of the rim with a three-point try as time expired. And with that, top-seeded Uniondale held on to beat No. 2 Baldwin, 64-61, last night for the Nassau Class AA boys basketball championship.

DePass had scored 12 fourth-quarter points to rally the Bruins from an 11-point deficit with 2:43 left to make it a tight finish. But the Knights (17-3), led by 19 points from sophomore point guard Shaq Mosley and Bolade Akingboye's 12 points and 12 rebounds, defeated Baldwin (17-3) in the county final for the second straight season. They also snapped the Bruins' 15-game winning streak.

"It's Baldwin-Uniondale. It's as big a rivalry as there is in Nassau," Uniondale coach Tom Diana said. "It's fun and hectic and stressful, but if we would have won by double-digits I would have been shocked. Not because we're not good enough, but because it's Baldwin-Uniondale."

It will be Uniondale that plays Half Hollow Hills West, the Suffolk AA champ, for the Long Island title at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra. "They're a good team," Mosley said of the Colts. "But everybody now is a good team. Baldwin is a good team. No intimidation, we have to go out and play hard."

Kind of like they did last night. Baldwin led 28-27 at the half, but the Knights went on an 18-6 run over the first six minutes of the third quarter and led 45-37 at the start of the fourth.

Midway through the final quarter, Mosley made two free throws to build the advantage to 53-41, and the Knights led 56-45 with just under three minutes left. But then DePass, who led Baldwin with 19 points, sparked a 10-2 run.

The senior hit two three-pointers in the final three minutes, including one from the right wing to cut Uniondale's lead to 58-55 with 1:02 to go. DePass then forced a steal and made two foul shots to pull the Bruins within 62-61 with 10 seconds left.

But that was the closest they got. "We stayed poised," Akingboye said.

Uniondale was 9-for-9 from the charity line in the last 5:06. Charles, who had seven points and seven rebounds, hit the final two free throws with the crowd at its loudest.

"I just let it go," Charles said. "Last game I kept thinking about my shot. This game I just had to let them go. This game I had nothing to lose."

Said Baldwin coach Darius Burton: "It was a great effort in the fourth quarter but we can't get off to a slow start in the third. We came back, but we came up a little short."

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