Kings Park guard Matthew Garside converts the pass down low...

Kings Park guard Matthew Garside converts the pass down low for two points against Hauppauge in the Suffolk Class A semi final game, Friday, February 25, 2022 at Kings Park. Credit: George A Faella

Kings Park’s ticket to the Suffolk Class A final was suddenly up in the air inside its packed gym.

The Kingsmen led by three after a Hauppauge basket. There were 23.2 seconds left. But after a timeout, the Eagles deflected Kings Park’s inbounds pass near midcourt. Kevin Zembrzycki came up with the ball for Hauppauge.

"Our guys didn’t panic," Kingsmen coach Chris Rube said. "We dug in."

The Eagles had no timeouts. They struggled to get an open look. The clock was running toward empty. Finally, Zembrzycki stepped forward to take a three-pointer from the left side. Brian Green stepped forward to defend.

"Just got to make a play at the end of the game," Green said.

The senior rose and made a play, blocking the shot. Time expired. Top-seeded Kings Park had its ticket with a 61-58 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Hauppauge Friday night.

Matty Garside hit five threes and scored 27 points and Andrew Plate nailed four threes and scored 14. And so the Kingsmen shoot for their first county title in 15 years when they face No. 2 Deer Park Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Longwood.

A special season continues.

"We’re 22-0, so it’s definitely special," Rube said. "But I’m a big believer [in], and I’ve been telling the boys, ‘You only deserve what you earn.’ A seed is just a number that somebody gave us. You have to earn it on the court.’ "

Plate buried a three to give Kings Park a 56-46 lead with 5:14 left. But Hauppauge kept coming. Macai John, who scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, dunked off a turnover and Zembrzycki followed with a three, making it 56-51.

Skip to the final minute. Garside hit two free throws to make it 61-54 with 49.3 seconds remaining. Then John drove for two and so did Erik Quinonez after he made a steal.

But the comeback ended there.

"It was a great season," coach Brad Hughes said after the Eagles’ 15-4 finish. "We got here. We gave ourselves a chance to win. It didn’t pan out on the last shot."

The Kingsmen led 27-20 at halftime. After Plate helped hold Hauppauge off in the third quarter with three threes, it was 48-43 heading for the fourth.

"We got a little frantic at the end," Garside said. " . . But the good thing about this group is we don’t waver. We don’t fold under the pressure, and everyone stepped up in the end."

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