Elmont’s 6-foot-4 skywalking junior K.C. Ndefo never met a shot he didn’t like … to block with thunderous ferocity.
“I try to go after every shot,” Ndefo said. “I practice my timing and I tell my guards, lead the defense to me and I’ll send it [the shot] back to them.”
Ndefo blocked six shots and scored a key basket in overtime to earn MVP honors Sunday night as Nassau defeated Suffolk, 87-82, in the seventh annual Alzheimer’s All-Star Basketball Classic played before a packed house at Bay Shore High School.
“He blocks everything,” said Baldwin coach Darius Burton, a Nassau assistant.
Although Baldwin is the defending Long Island Class AA champ and Elmont is the defending Long Island and state Class A champion, Burton is quite familiar with Ndefo’s block parties. He attended one in person this past summer.
“We lost one game in our league and that was to Elmont,” Burton said. “K.C. blocked 11 shots, so I’m not surprised by what he did. We told these kids for this game to do what they do best. Blocking shots is what K.C. does best.”
Ndefo drew jubilant cheers from the crowd for his blocks – and shouts of “Get that outta here! Not in my house!” from enthusiastic courtside announcer Dwayne Burnett.
Long Island Lutheran’s Donatas Kupsas scored six points early in a second-half flurry and fed LuHi teammate Chris Coalman for another basket as Nassau built a 66-43 lead with 15 minutes left.
That’s when Suffolk caught fire, sparked by Lester Quinones (Upper Room) who scored eight consecutive points, including a pair of threes. Another Upper Room player, Osbel Caraballo, hit a jumper and two threes sandwiched around a three-pointer from the wing by Quinones that cut the deficit to 72-64, forcing Nassau to call a timeout with six minutes left.
Donatas Kupsas (L.I. Lutheran) hit two free throws to build the lead back up to 75-66, but Suffolk dominated down the stretch. Rashan Allen (Copiague) hit two from downtown that got Suffolk to within 76-63 with 2:52 left.
It appeared Nassau had regained control when it took a 80-76 lead with 31.5 seconds left, but Tyrone Lyons (St. Anthony’s) nailed a putback and Suffolk forced a key turnover in the backcourt that led to Caraballo’s game-tying layup with 18 seconds left. Both teams failed on chances to win in regulation.
Alex Merhige (Harborfields) made two free throws in the first minute of the five-minute OT to put Suffolk ahead 82-80, but that was its final points. Ndefo blocked his sixth shot, adding Bouki Diakite (Our Savior New American) to his victim list, altered another on the same sequence, and moments later, Thornton Scott (Holy Trinity) sank a huge three from the top of the key.
“I got him,” Ndefo said with a smile of the athletic Diakite, who has committed to St. John’s. “I talked to him during the game and told him he wasn’t scoring on me.” Diakite managed only one basket in the second half.
Ndefo scored on the baseline on a nice feed from Scott to make it 85-82. Suffolk had a chance to tie it with 20 seconds left, but Allen missed a three and Elijah Bovell (Baldwin) iced it with two free throws.
Ndefo, who blocked eight shots in a thrilling double-overtime victory over South Shore in last March’s Nassau Class A title game and had a double-double in the state final, wants to become more than merely a human eraser. “I’ve been trying to develop my outside game to be more versatile,” he said.
But his primary assignment, at least while he is in high school, will remain the same. He’ll be the post man and shots will be stamped “return to sender.”
Notes and quotes
L.I. Lutheran’s entire frontcourt for the 2016-17 season started. Center Donatas Kupsas scored 15 points while wing forwards Chris Coalman and Harry Warnock added 16 and eight respectively. “They’re unselfish and they play well together,” said LuHi coach John Buck, an assistant for Nassau . . . Dunk of the night came from Baldwin senior guard Jabeon Bivens, who soared in from the right wing for a one-handed slam for a 72-57 lead with 6:45 left in regulation . . . Private school players stood out for Suffolk. Osbel Caraballo (Upper Room) scored 18, and Tyrone Lyons (St. Anthony’s) had 15. Additionally, Diakite scored 12 of his 14 in the first half and Brentwood transfer Lester Quinones (Upper Room) scored all of his 13 points in the second half, including three from downtown. . . . In the girls’ game, Nassau defeated Suffolk, 86-77. Celeste Taylor, a sensational sophomore from L.I. Lutheran, was voted MVP, scoring 24 points. Victoria Pearce, a senior from Bay Shore, thrilled her hometown fans with 26 points in a losing effort.