Smithtown West sophomore Chris Crespo didn’t call bank. But hey, a free throw’s a free throw.
With the Bulls trailing by two with 27 seconds left in their Suffolk III clash at Newfield Thursday, Crespo banked in his first foul shot.
“I’d be lying if I said I called that,” said Crespo, who swished the second to send the game into overtime before the Bulls pulled out a 56-49 win. “But hey, a free throw’s a free throw.”
With Smithtown West trailing 48-47 early in overtime, junior Kyle LaGuardia pulled down an offensive rebound in traffic, then drew the and-one — and banked in the free throw.
No, he didn’t call bank, either.
“[I was] a little nervous,” said LaGuardia, whose three-point play gave Smithtown West a lead it would not relinquish. “Put a little too much on it. But it went in.”
Two banked free throws in the clutch? Some might call that good fortune. Coach Mike Agostino calls it the product of hours and hours of practice.
“If you practice them enough,” he said, “good things are going to happen.’’
In each of the Bulls’ practices, Agostino has his players shoot at least 100 free throws each.
“With free throws,” he said, “conditioning of the legs through repetition is so important.”
In the first quarter, Crespo didn’t have to call bank, hitting all six of his free-throw attempts to help the Bulls build a 17-12 lead. But this was a scrappy, grind-it-out contest the rest of the way. Newfield — led by Marty Coleran (24 points) and Denzel Williams (11 points) — clawed back and saw its lead peak at 44-38 midway through the fourth quarter.
But Matt English (14 points, 12 rebounds) drew an offensive foul with 4:16 left, then had a putback on the other end to bring Smithtown West to within 44-40. Soon after, Doug Levy (eight points, 13 rebounds) blocked a shot, leading to a transition layup for English. After Williams hit a free throw for Newfield, Crespo had a steal and transition layup to cut the Bulls’ deficit to 45-44 with 2:10 remaining. Nick Grande’s free throw tied it at 45.
“The guys played tenaciously on defense,” said Crespo, who had 11 points, six assists and three steals. “We really got after it.”
Jake Torres added four steals.
With Smithtown West leading 52-49 in overtime, LaGuardia blocked Coleran’s three-pointer with 30 seconds left. Gordon Shoulder and LaGuardia (seven points) each hit a pair of free throws to seal it.
“Practice,” LaGuardia said, “really pays off.”