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Imran Ritchie's 26 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists lead Uniondale

Uniondale's Imran Ritchie drives to the basket around

Uniondale's Imran Ritchie drives to the basket around Hempstead's Corey Jones during their game at Uniondale High School. (Jan. 24, 2014) Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

If you plan to watch a Uniondale boys basketball game, don't glance at the scoreboard during a play for too long.

Don't move to get something to eat.

And don't even look at the person you're talking to because during those seconds, you might miss Imran Ritchie do something special -- on both ends of the court.

Take Friday's game, for example. Ritchie scored 23 of his 26 points in the second half as Uniondale used a big fourth quarter to pull away and defeat visiting Hempstead, 73-56, in a Nassau Conference AA-I game before a large, but split, crowd.

Uniondale (6-2) trailed by three points at halftime and the score was tied after the third quarter, but behind Ritchie's hot shooting and slick passing, The Knights outscored Hempstead 28-11 in the fourth quarter.

Ritchie, a senior point guard, said he had a message for teammates before the second half started. "I told them, we're down three and this is basically what the playoffs are like. In the playoffs, you're not always going to be up. This was really like a playoff victory," said Ritchie, who nailed four three-pointers and had nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals.

There were 12 lead changes in the game. Uniondale went ahead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Ritchie drove the lane, drew a foul and made two free throws to make it 47-45.

Hempstead (1-7), looking to stay in the playoff picture, rebounded well and challenged Uniondale early on with an up-tempo style. John Blocker led Hempstead with 19 points and Khalik Watts chipped in 16.

"We got yelled at when it was halftime," said Alan McDonald, who had 10 points. "We were told we were playing soft and that if we don't rebound, we were going to lose."

Uniondale forced turnovers and rebounded better after the tongue-lashing, as Shomari Redd, who had nine points and five assists, Malik Howard (10 points) and Talek Butler (six points) contributed. Things really changed when Ritchie opened the third quarter with three three-pointers in the first two minutes.

"It was like a neutral crowd, but that's when momentum went to our side," Ritchie said.

Though many in the crowd cheered him on when he made no-look passes, grabbed steals and crossed over defenders in the first half, few looked away from No. 12 during the second half.

"I just felt like I wasn't being aggressive enough in the first half," Ritchie said. "In the first half, the shots weren't falling for me, but I was feeling it, so I kept shooting because it felt good."

How does he know when he's "feeling it"?

"I don't," he said with a laugh. "I just feel it."

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