Manhasset’s 67-65 loss to Westbury in Friday night’s Nassau Class A quarterfinals marked the end of the road for a group of Manhasset seniors that helped the team turnaround from 2-16 and 4-13 seasons in 2007 and 2008 to become a playoff team that challenged Westbury, a No. 2 seed, into the fourth quarter Friday at Hofstra.
“For a couple years back, we had no juniors or seniors,” Manhasset coach George Bruns said in a near-empty Mack Sports Complex after the game late Friday night at Hofstra. So guard Matt Demitroff and guard/forward Stu Hicks played varsity as freshmen, and center Evan Pupelis played a lot as a sophomore. Growing pains ensued with the losing seasons, but they ended with this year’s 12-7 record and a playoff run.
But Westbury (15-4) proved to be too much to handle Friday. The Green Dragons trailed by 10 midway through the second quarter, but rallied using their up-tempo pace. Sheldon Hagigal had 24 points and Paris Abrams had 17, including some timely three-pointers in in the third and fourth quarters to help hold off Manhasset.
Westbury forced steals and moved quickly down the court, looking for transition buckets. And eventually they wore down Manhasset with the pace. Manhasset led 38-29 at half, but scored just five points in the first six minutes of the third quarter as Westbury built a 48-45 lead heading in to the fourth.
The lead never became larger than five from there, but Westbury made a handful of free throws down the stretch to seal it. Hagigal made a pair to put the Dragons up 63-58 with 48.8 to go and nailed another two to make it 67-62 with 6.7 seconds left. Manhasset’s Pupelis made a three at the buzzer to make it a two-point final.
Hicks and sophomore Alessandro Troia led Manhasset with 16 points. Westbury plays South Side in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday back at Hofstra.
“What are you going to say? It’s a winnable game that you didn’t win,” Bruns said. “They shot well from the foul line and every time we made mistakes they converted a lay-up.”