Jonathan Maldonado heard the dare and accepted it.
Clutching the ball on the right wing with just under four minutes remaining, a shout from the stands of "Let him shoot it" pierced throughout the gym for all to hear. Maldonado then proceeded to drain the clutch three-pointer, look back in the direction of the shout and give a few nods of gamesmanship.
It was another electrifying moment from the senior, who led a second-half Elmont surge for a 61-53 road victory over Calhoun in a Nassau A-II boys basketball game on Saturday afternoon.
"They were just talking to me the whole game, but I don’t really mind them being on me," said Maldonado, who recorded 23 points, six assists and five rebounds. "But that three felt good though when it went in."
Elmont remains undefeated at 5-0, while Calhoun dropped to 3-2.
A step-through floater from Calhoun’s Chris Zaveckas with 1:51 left cut Elmont’s lead to 54-51, but Maldonado followed up with a three from the right corner to regain the two-possession lead.
Zaveckas then converted a jumper to pull to within 57-53 with 1:15 left before Elmont would combine a defensive stop with a Jayden Rayford layup to close out the victory.
Elmont trailed 28-27 at halftime before finding greater offensive rhythm in the second half.
"We’re on a roll right now," said Rayford, who provided additional punch for Elmont with 22 points and five rebounds. "We just take it a game at a time, work hard in practice and come out here and get the results."
Another key component in Elmont’s victory was its defense of Patrick Sanchez, who entered the day as the fifth-leading scorer in Nassau at 25.7 points per game, according to Newsday records. The combination of Maldonado’s solid primary defense and Elmont’s quick rotations limited Sanchez to just 14 points.
"That was a struggle right there," Maldonado said. "But it was just about communicating and scrambling, just being us."
Maldonado suffered a frightening moment with two minutes left in the third quarter, as he took a knee to the thigh on a drive to the rim and remained on the floor for about a minute. He limped off the court to receive treatment, returned at the 6:39 mark of the fourth and closed the final period with seven points.
"Toughest kid I know," Elmont coach Ryan Straub said. "By far. He’s an absolute animal, competitor and that little bump on his leg wasn’t going to stop him. It was huge for our team that he came back. He’s our leader, our floor general. Offensively and defensively, we go as he goes."