While everyone in the Mack Sports Complex roared, Jonathan Harewood stood at the free-throw line composed. He blocked out the noise and focused on the basket.
The can’t miss senior had hit all five free throws earlier on Tuesday night and here he was looking to seal St. Anthony’s claim to the boys basketball title in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA.
Harewood hit nothing but net on both free throws with 19 seconds remaining to give St. Anthony’s a four-point lead in a 63-60 win over Chaminade, the league’s defending champion before a boisterous crowd at Hofstra.
It was the Friars second title in three years under coach Sal Lagano. Harewood finished with a game-high 22 points to earn the MVP and send St. Anthony’s into the state CHSAA semifinals against the Buffalo representative at noon on Saturday at LIU Post.
Chaminade’s last gasp shot at a tying three-point attempt came up well short of the rim as time expired.
“We work on free throws all the time and nothing bothers me when I’m at the line,” Harewood said. “We were down and never quit. We showed so much character and so much determination against a great team that could shoot the lights out. And our guys just lifted each other and kept coming back.”
Chaminade (20-6) looked like it would run away with this one. The Flyers went on a 15-2 blitz, buoyed by two consecutive three pointers off the right hand of sophomore Michael O’Connell, to open a 22-7 lead after one quarter. O’Connell finished the quarter with a steal and a length-of-the-court dash for a layup before time expired. He finished the quarter with 12 points and the Flyers in full control.
“We weathered the storm,” Lagano said. “They have some extremely good perimeter shooting. And we hung in there, switched our defense up and created more offense inside. I thought our five seniors contributed in the second half and made this run at the title possible. It was certainly a wild finish.”
St. Anthony’s (19-7) extinguished all the Flyers first quarter momentum when the Friars defense forced seven second quarter turnovers to get back in the game. The suffocating defense helped the Friars go on a 13-1 run and draw within 23-20. Harewood led the charge with nine points in that span.
“We wanted this championship so bad,” said senior Tyrone Lyons Jr., who had 11 points and 11 rebounds. “There were so many doubters. And this was an opportunity to prove them wrong. We had so much heart late in the game and I could feel it going our way.”
Chaminade senior Robert Connors hit his fourth three-pointer of the game with 2:58 left to give the Flyers a 57-50 lead. St. Anthony’s responded with a 10-0 run keyed by two hard driving baskets from Antonio Lopez for the 60-57 lead with 1:37 left.
The Friars closed the game with a 13-3 run for the title.
“Down the stretch we had guys like Michael Regan, Corey Bernard, Tyrone and Antonio contribute and they’ll never forget this,” Lagano said. “This was a total team effort.”
And a guy named Harewood who never missed a free throw.