When he saw the Nassau Class AA boys basketball playoff bracket, Westbury’s Jonathan Dean pinpointed the semifinal matchup he wanted for his team.
It had nothing to do with the Red Devils’ No. 11 seed or not wanting to face No. 3 Uniondale. Freeport eliminated Westbury in last year’s quarterfinals, and that left a sour taste with Dean and his teammates.
“I wanted to play them here,” Dean said, “and it happened.”
Dean and Darius Young each scored 19 points, and the No. 2 Green Dragons pulled away from Freeport in the final three minutes for a 62-53 win Tuesday night at Hofstra.
Westbury last won a county title in 2010, as a Class A program. It will make its first ‘AA’ championship appearance, according to coach Dan Graff, Saturday at 9 p.m. at LIU Post against No. 1 Baldwin.
“There’s a tremendous tradition at Westbury in terms of basketball,” Graff said, “and we’re proud to continue it.”
Westbury (18-2) led for 30:23, but Freeport (15-7) kept its largest deficit manageable, at 11 points midway through the third quarter. After trailing 40-29, Freeport’s Rajah Mayo (16 points) hit a layup and two three-pointers to spark a 21-10 run that evened the score at 50 with 4:48 left in the game. Tyree Powell-Townsend (12 points) tied it on a jump hook in the paint.
But with memories of last year’s 68-59 overtime defeat in mind, the Green Dragons ramped up their defensive pressure. Backup point guard Rolson Sainbert checked in and held Willie Tenzie (13 points) scoreless in the final four minutes, and Young made two critical steals that led to points as Westbury pulled away.
“We knew defense was going to win the game,” Young said, “so we just came out playing hard defense.”
Dean scored on a post move to break the tie with 4:08 left. He had 12 points in the second half, including five in the game-sealing run. “Times like that, it’s crunch time,” he said. “The ball’s in my hand, and I have to make things happen. Make a play, put the ball in the hole and get the ‘W’ for the team.”
Because this ‘W’ meant so much more.
“It feels special to get the ‘W’ because of last year,” Dean said. “We needed revenge and we got it today.”