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Tom Santella, Manhasset use balanced attack to reach Nassau Class AA final

Rylan Blondo of Lynbrook hits a layup after

Rylan Blondo of Lynbrook hits a layup after making a steal in the fourth quarter of a Nassau Class A boys basketball semifinal against Valley Stream South at Farmingdale State College on Wednesday. Credit: James Escher

Manhasset had led Elmont for virtually the entire game when it reached a critical point near the end of the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Nassau Class A semifinal. The top-seeded Spartans had drawn to within 33-32 on Qai Kellman’s three-pointer from the right wing.

On the ensuing possession the Indians’ Tom Santella put back his own miss to make the lead three. And after an Elmont miss, Chris Themelis took a pass from Santella and banked in a three-pointer as the clock expired on the quarter. The lead was back to six as Manhasset never looked back in a 51-43 victory at Farmingdale State’s Nold Athletic Complex.

Elmont won the teams’ two regular season meetings.

The fourth-seeded Indians (19-3) will meet No. 2 Lynbrook (20-2) on Sunday at Farmingdale State as they go for their fourth Nassau crown and first since 2011.

“Having the lead going into the fourth quarter was big because we always believe we can finish,” said Santella, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. “Now we are where we wanted to be. It’s exactly what we dreamed about.”

Santella’s effort headlined a true ensemble performance where all seven players in the Manhasset rotation scored at least five points. Ahmad Crowell had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Indians.

“That’s what we’ve been like all year: we give you a little bit of everyone,” Manhasset coach George Bruns said. “That’s a team that gets turnovers and likes to fast break and also gets a lot of offensive rebounds. Those hurt us the first two times, but we controlled them this time.”

Manhasset turned 13 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points while limiting the Spartans (16-6) to only seven points off the offensive glass. By packing their defense into the paint the Indians dared Elmont to beat it with three-pointers and the Spartans were just 5-for-20 from that distance.

The Indians also ran the break well, scoring 10 points off it, “I think we’ve shown we have the best break in the county,” Themelis said. “If you didn’t believe it, you saw it tonight.”

Manhasset built off the 38-32 lead entering the fourth quarter by scoring its first five points on a Crowell putback and a Themelis three-pointer. Elmont got within 45-41 on Jevon Santos’ drive with 58 seconds left, but Crowell converted a three-point play on the other end to ice it.

Santos and Kellman each finished with 12 points for Elmont.

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