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Danny Ashley leads Uniondale into AA finals

Danny Ashley #12 of Uniondale, right, gets pressured

Danny Ashley #12 of Uniondale, right, gets pressured by Richie Rambarran #1 of Syosset during the Nassau Class AA boys basketball semifinals at SUNY Old Westbury on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Ashley scored a team-high 19 points in Uniondale's 69-44 win. Credit: James Escher

Danny Ashley’s game is fresh and vibrant, even if his style is not.

“He’s an old-school, old-fashioned, throwback point guard,” Uniondale coach Tom Diana said. “He plays simple and he plays smart.”

Ashley was simply the best player on the court, scoring 19 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead No. 1 Uniondale to a 69-44 victory over No. 4 Syosset Tuesday night in the first of two Nassau AA semifinals played at SUNY-Old Westbury.

The Knights (18-3) will face Westbury in the Class AA final Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Hofstra. The Braves, who reached the county semifinals for the first time since 1970, got a 21-point performance from Griffin Halpern and finished 18-3.

Ashley had much more help. “I trust my teammates with the ball. I always know they’ll do the right thing,” said the 5-9 junior, Uniondale’s only returning starter.

His frontcourt did the right thing in the first quarter, accounting for all the points as the Knights grabbed a 16-8 advantage on their way to building a 35-15 halftime lead.

Craig Brown (17 points, 12 rebounds) scored six points, Zion Styles (15 points, seven rebounds, four assists) scored five and De’Shaun Jackson (nine points) added five as Uniondale established an early presence down low. “We wanted to establish our forwards early,” Diana said. “That opened up our perimeter game.”

It also gave Ashley plenty of room to maneuver. He scored 11 points in the second quarter, including one of his two three-pointers. “My game is to take what the defense gives me,” he said. “Our big men got open early and that opened it up for me.”

The Knights grabbed control with a 12-0 burst that spanned the first and second quarters and produced a 22-8 lead. Brown began the run with a turnaround jumper in the lane. Jackson made a free throw and a baseline bank to close out the opening period. Ashley scored his first point from the foul line, Brown converted an offensive rebound, Styles sank a free throw and Ashley hit a straight-away jumper.

After Halpern temporarily stopped the surge with a step-through layup, Ashley came down and drilled a straight-away three-pointer. He added a lefty layup later in the quarter. Syosset had a 7-0 run early in the third quarter, but back-to-back threes by R.J. Meyers-Turner and Ashley and a conventional three-point play by Brown made it 49-26 with 2:36 left in the third.

“When our big men score, it makes the game a lot easier,” Ashley said.

And when Ashley plays his game, it makes things a lot easier for his coach. “He recognizes what the defense is giving us,” Diana said. “And that’s rare.”

Make that well-done.

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