The five senior starters on the Manhasset boys basketball team pictured this moment since the days of playing pickup basketball during recess. From the time they started playing organized basketball together, hoisting up hardware was always the end goal and the perfect way to finish sharing a court together.
And that’s exactly what the fourth-seeded Indians accomplished Sunday afternoon with a 55-42 victory over second-seeded Lynbrook for the Nassau Class A championship at Farmingdale State College. It is Manhasset’s first county title since 2011.
“This is surreal,” said guard Chris Themelis, who scored six points. “We’ve been playing together more than 10 years — CYO, recess, and elementary school. We came up in the sport, looking forward to this for years. This group of guys, it’s just unbelievable. I can’t believe what we just did.”
Manhasset (20-3) advances to play Wyandanch (17-7) in the Long Island Class A championship/Southeast Regional Final Sunday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum at 6 p.m.
As has been the team’s calling card throughout the season, the Indians didn’t win the county championship game because of an individual. The team emphasizes balanced scoring and strong defense, rather than playing through one student-athlete.
“Going into this season, you could never believe you’d have such balance,” coach George Bruns said. “Someone every night took over and you never knew who was going to do it. As individuals, we were erratic at times, but one cylinder went down, another came on.”
Sophomore Ahmad Crowell led Manhasset with 20 points, including 18 in the second half. He hit eight foul shots in the fourth quarter.
“I tried to do whatever I could to help my team win,” Crowell said. “And we got the ‘W.’ ”
Themelis, along with Joe LoCurto, Louis Perfetto, Tom Santella and John Mastando make up Manhasset’s all-senior starting lineup. Mastando led the seniors with 12 points.
“Our whole lives, this is the season that we wanted to get the county championship,” Mastando said. “And it all went our way. I’m just so proud.”
Manhasset fought back from an early 13-4 deficit and trailed Lynbrook, 26-24, at the half. But after three lead changes and four ties in the third quarter, the Indians took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter, which they never relinquished. Rylan Blondo had 18 points for Lynbrook (20-3).
“I just never know how we’re going to do it, but we get it done,” Bruns said. “There’s a certain magic this year for this group.”