A bruised heel sidelined Westbury’s Jonathan Dean for the last week, but it was a game against defending Long Island Class AA champion Baldwin that got him back on his toes.
“I knew I had to be there for my teammates,” Dean said after scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead Westbury to a 63-57 victory over host Baldwin Tuesday night in a bruising, fast-paced Nassau AA2 showdown of unbeaten teams.
“He’s a tremendous player and if we can get him 100 percent, we’re a different team,” Green Dragons coach Dave Graff said, alluding to an assortment of injuries and sickness that has kept Dean out of the lineup for four games. “He can do everything — shoot, handle and he’s ambidextrous around the bucket.”
Dean scored 11 points during a 21-1 that spanned the third and fourth quarters and sparked Westbury (6-0) to a 59-43 lead with 4:10 left. But Graff knew the game wasn’t over because he knew the vaunted Baldwin press was going to be unleashed, full force. Sure enough, four consecutive turnovers sent the Bruins (5-1) on a 12-0 run that cut the deficit to 59-53 with 1:27 left. The Green Dragons missed four consecutive free throws, took several hurried shots and missed a wide-open dunk before Isaiah Bien-Aise (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Dean restored order with four free throws in the final 32 seconds.
Rosim Cylin scored 13 points and Elijah Bovell added 12 for the Bruins while John Smith came off the bench to grab 16 rebounds. Darius Young scored 18 points for Westbury, including three from downtown that helped build the big lead.
But Young acknowledged, “We forced stuff way too much when they started coming back. You know you’re supposed to be patient, but it’s not so easy to slow it down. They were in our heads.”
The Bruins were also in the Green Dragons’ face, forcing 20 turnovers and making 16 steals. “Of course they came back. They have the heart of a champion,” Graff said. “Their relentless defensive pressure got to us.”
After Bien-Aise’s dunk produced the largest lead of the night midway through the fourth, Baldwin stormed back, capping their rally with Norman Wilson’s long three-pointer from the left wing that made things very uncomfortable. “We played defense and rebounded when we got the big lead but we stopped playing defense and rebounding when they came back,” Dean said. “We were weak with the ball.”
But the Green Dragons wound up being strong enough to put an end to a couple of remarkable Baldwin winning streaks: 36 straight at home and 48 straight in league games.
“For us to come in here and win on their home court is a big deal for us,” Graff said. Westbury finally found Baldwin’s Achilles’ heel.