It was a broken play, but it fixed Baldwin.
Elijah Bovell was shut off on his driving attempt and surrounded by defenders. He spotted Derrick Ruffin alone on the right wing and delivered a desperate crosscourt pass. Ruffin made his only field goal of the game — a three-pointer that put the Bruins ahead by a point — and he and Bovell converted one-and-ones in the final seconds as Baldwin held off Mount St. Michael, 60-57, on Saturday in the Upstate-Downstate Challenge at Uniondale.
“Just a broken play, but I saw Derrick was wide open and I passed him the ball,” said Bovell, who led Baldwin in its season opener with 22 points. “I knew he could hit the shot. He makes it all the time in practice.”
With All-Long Island player Jared Rhoden having transferred to Our Saviour Lutheran (Bronx), Bovell should be Baldwin’s prime scoring threat this season. He hit a three-pointer earlier in the fourth quarter for a one-point lead and made two free throws after a drive to put Baldwin ahead 53-51 with 5:38 left.
Neither team scored for more than 3 1⁄2 minutes before Elijah Buchanan and Jacob Rod riguez scored inside to put the team from the Bronx ahead 55-53 with 1:08 left. Point guard Jabeon Bivins, another player from last season’s Long Island Class AA champion, got the ball to Bovell, but the Mountaineers wouldn’t let him get to the rim.
He settled for Ruffin, who started in place of injured Norman Wilson. “He’ll probably be our sixth man when Norman comes back,” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said. “He can shoot the three, but I call him the Junkyard Dog because he does the dirty work like rebound and play defense.”
All of the Bruins roll up their sleeves on defense, and their pressure helped erase an early 13-3 deficit.
“We could’ve been blown out of the building,” Burton said. “We were a little nervous at first with a lot of new faces. But we’re built on defense. We extended our pressure and sped up the tempo. We wanted to make them uncomfortable.”