Rylan Blondo has an uncommon name and an uncommon talent to go with it.
Asked about its genesis, Lynbrook’s senior guard explained that “it comes from Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher; my mom blended the two names together to get Rylan.” Nothing could have been more appropriate on Wednesday evening because he was bringing the heat in the fourth quarter of the Owls’ Nassau Class A semifinal against Valley Stream South.
Blondo scored 16 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter as second-seeded Lynbrook erased a one-point deficit and rolled to a 51-40 victory over the No. 3 Falcons at Farmingdale State’s Nold Athletic Complex.
The Owls (20-2) will be playing for their second county title and first since 1989 on Sunday when it meets the winner of the late semifinal between No. 1 Elmont and No. 4 Manhasset on Sunday at Farmingdale State.
“No one deserves the success he’s having more,” Lynbrook coach Jamie Adams said. “No one works harder and that really makes a difference for our team. When you’re best player is also your hardest worker, it can become infectious. I think the rest of the players feed off what he’s doing.”
The Falcons (17-5) used an 8-1 run late in the third quarter, took a 31-28 lead as Corey Powell sank a jumper with 1:45 left and led 31-30 entering the fourth. Powell would finish with 15 points and Elijah Johnson 13 points for the Falcons.
The Owls stormed out in the final frame with a 16-4 run that included 14 points from Blondo.
He made one of two free throws to tie the game with 7:38 left and stole a pass and took it the length of the court for a layup on the ensuing possession for a lead Lynbrook would not relinquish. He had a pretty teardrop from the baseline fall and took another steal for a layup on the ensuing possession for a 38-33 lead. And Blondo made two free throws with 1:21 left for the Owls’ biggest lead, 46-35.
Senior-laden Lynbrook’s success this season also is due to the transformation of James Montgomery, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He was a 6-1 forward last season who came off the bench. Over the summer he grew four inches. He is now a starting center with great passing and ball skills.
“He gave us something we never had – an game on the interior,” Adams said. “If I let him take three-pointers he would make them, but he’s so valuable on the block.”
Lynbrook hadn’t been a county champion for more than a decade when the current Owls were born, but there is a connection. As Blondo said “Lynbrook is special and this is a special team at Lynbrook.”
“I’m around them all the time,” Adams said, “and it feels like they are playing for all the classes that came since 1989 and didn’t win.”