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Felder leads Friends to LI Class C title

Friends Academy's Bennett Felder, 34, passes the ball

Friends Academy's Bennett Felder, 34, passes the ball in front of teammate Kellan Sehring, 35. Friends defeated Port Jefferson 54-47 in the Class C Long Island Championship game at SUNY Old Westbury. (March 9, 2011) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Once Bennett Felder shook off his rust, he threatened to do the same to the rim's paint job. The Friends Academy forward didn't manage to nick off any orange paint from the cylinder, but did get his shot off just in the nick of time.

Felder flipped up a shot along the right baseline with one second on the shot clock. The ball bounced off the far side of the rim, then the near side, and finally into the net. The basket gave Friends Academy the lead for good with 1:07 remaining in its 54-47 win over Port Jefferson Wednesday night in the Long Island Class C final/Southeast Regional semifinal at SUNY-Old Westbury.

"My teammates sort of screamed 'put it up!' but I just put it up instinctually" said Felder, who scored all six of his points in the fourth quarter. "I'm really happy I did."

Friends Academy scored the last nine points of the game, including Felder's foul-line jumper with 3:11 to play that tied it at 47. The basketball gods played a role in that shot as well, bouncing high off the heel of the rim and then straight into the hoop.

"Soft rims," Friends coach Steve Hefele said, "gotta love it."

Felder and the Quakers (14-4) entered the game on a 22-day break since their last game -- and it showed in the first half. Port Jefferson (14-9) closed the second quarter with a 17-3 run, behind six points and two assists from Terell Rose (18 points), to take a 33-20 halftime lead.

But Friends opened the second half with a 15-2 run to tie the score at 35 with 2:45 left in the third.

"It was shaking off the rust a little," said T.J. Hefele, who led the Quakers with 17 points, including swishing both ends of a one-and-one with 30.6 seconds left to give Friends a 51-47 lead. "It was a game of momentum. They got it and then we took it."

Added Felder: "You can't simulate the end of a game like that."

The Quakers last won a Long Island title in the 2007-08 season, and have won four of the last seven. They will play Tuckahoe, which defeated Pine Plains, 91-64, last night, in the Southeast Regional final at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Farmingdale State.

That was very much in doubt when Rose ended the third quarter with six straight points on conventional and modern three-point plays to put Port Jefferson up by five.

Hefele opened the fourth with a three and Felder's catch-and-shoot in the air off an inbounds tied it at 43. Port Jefferson, scored only four fourth-quarter points, and was outscored 34-14 in the second half.

Said Port Jefferson coach Michael Riley: "Friends was a little hungrier."

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