Sixty years is a long time between county championships. And the Garden City boys basketball team was on the cusp of ending such a drought last night in the Nassau Class A title game at Farmingdale State College.
A gritty Floral Park with standout guards Brian Fox and Francis Phelan stood in the Trojans way of a shot at a season of perfection. Garden City, with its undefeated record and a 21-game win streak in tow, marched into the spacious college venue ready to win the school’s first crown since 1958.
The wait is over. But not before Floral Park battled the Trojans with everything they had. And it took two overtimes to get a winner.
Tyler Soutar and Kevin McNiff iced Garden City’s win with two free throws each in the final seconds of a 74-68 win over Floral Park to claim the Nassau Class A title before a capacity crowd last night at Farmingdale State College.
“It’s crazy to think that’s it’s been that long and we’re a part of something so special,” said McNiff, who finished with 12 points and four steals. “We’re 16 unselfish guys who all work real hard and aren’t afraid of anything. Our defense made the big plays at the end and we hit our free throws.”
Garden City (22-0) will meet Amityville for the Long Island Class A title at 3 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State College.
“We really preached how important free throw shooting was going to be all season,” Garden City coach James Hegmann said. “And our guys made their free throws. And it was another game where we just fought like we’ve fought all year.”
In the second overtime, Garden City went on an 8-0 burst to take a 72-66 lead. Joe Scattareggia hit a driving layup to tie it at 66 and Andrew DeSantis drilled a pullup 12-foot jumper for the lead with 48 seconds remaining. DeSantis faked right, drove left toward the basket and with his defender reeling, pulled up for the go-ahead shot that found nothing but net.
“I work on that shot all the time,” said DeSantis, who had 18 points. “It felt good right out of my hand.”
McNiff stretched the lead with two free throws with 21 seconds left and Soutar added two more with 15 seconds left to make it 72-66.
“You just treat those pressure free throws like its practice,” McNiff said.
It was McNiff who forced both overtimes at the free throw line. His free throw with 17 seconds left tied the score at 58 at the end of regulation. And his two free throws with 52 seconds remaining in the first overtime tied the score at 64 to force the second overtime.
Floral Park (20-3) clawed its way back from a 14-point third quarter deficit to tie the score at 50 on a three-point play by Jayson Delgado with 4:33 left in the game. The Knights hit all 10 of their free throws, including six of six by Phelan, in the fourth quarter to come back.
“We had a couple of opportunities to win it,” Floral Park coach Sean Boyle said. “We were up two and turned it over. We just didn’t cash in.”
Garden City will celebrate for the first time in 60 years.