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."