For West Babylon center Marshall Fairley, a career afternoon was built one brick at a time.
Shots clanged repeatedly off the rims from all angles. Something lost for the shooters. Something gained for Fairley. The 6-4 senior center snared a career-high 22 rebounds and scored 14 points in West Babylon's 59-50 victory over host Hauppauge Saturday in a Suffolk League IV game.
"My mind-set was, 'I want everything.' I knew if I didn't get those rebounds, we'd probably lose," Fairley said after West Babylon improved to 8-0 in the league and dropped Hauppauge to 2-5.
That was especially true in the first half, when both teams had trouble scoring and Fairley grabbed 17 of his rebounds. The visiting Eagles needed Fairley to soar because two key scorers were ailing. Top gun and point guard Matt Sullivan fought through agonizing flu symptoms that left him red-faced and coughing as he played nearly the entire contest, but sat out pregame and halftime warm-ups to wrap himself in two extra shirts. He managed seven points, about one-third of his average.
Matt McArdle, the second-leading three-point shooter in Suffolk, is out until the playoffs with a broken jaw. That meant more missed shots and more rebound opportunities for Fairley.
"That's what Marshall does," West Babylon coach Tim Lynch said. "He's our one big kid and he's got to go and get those rebounds. He did a great job."
So did Chris Doyle and Jeff Mercado as West Babylon finally got its offense going a bit in the second half, scoring 35 points and building a lead as large as 15 in the fourth quarter. Mercado, a hustling forward, scored nine in the third period and Doyle, a versatile wing player, scored eight in the fourth and contributed 10 assists.
"Chris just played his game," Lynch said. "He didn't try to take the game over, even with Matt sick. He's our all-purpose guy."
Mercado served a purpose, too, nailing a big three with 5:10 left in the third quarter that countered a trey by Jon Velazquez (19 points) that had cut Hauppauge's deficit to 31-25. Mercado also scored a key layup after Kyle Sutryk (13 points) hit a step-back jumper that drew the hosts to within 35-31. West Babylon went on an 11-2 burst that stretched into the fourth quarter, capped by Doyle's conventional three-point play that made it 46-33.
A Hauppauge turnover in the backcourt in the final minute set up Fairley for the exclamation point, a dunk with 22 seconds left. Fairley gave a sheepish grin when discussing his jam, which was reluctant rather than resounding.
"If I didn't dunk, they would've made fun of me," he said.