Just call K.C. Ndefo a rim rejecter.
The 6-3 sophomore blocked eight shots, scored two critical baskets and grabbed a key offensive rebound as No. 2 Elmont outlasted No. 1 South Side, 55-51, in double overtime Saturday night in the Nassau Class A boys basketball championship game played before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 3,000 at LIU Post.
“I try to take away everything,” Ndefo said.
“He’s a sophomore who plays like a grown man,” Elmont coach George Holub said. “He’s the toughest guy I have.”
Ndefo showed his toughness by preventing South Side (18-5) from getting many layups or good looks inside. But the Cyclones still had senior sharpshooter Alex Sorensen, whose final game was a beauty. He scored 22 points, including five from behind the three-point line. He scored all 10 of his team’s points in the third quarter and his putback in traffic — a rare inside basket for South Side — tied it at 39 with 2:52 left in regulation.
The drama was just beginning. Jalen Burgess (20 points), put the Spartans (20-3) ahead 41-39. Paul Lonergan (10 points) hit a big three to put South Side back on top, 42-41 with 2:02 left.
Ndefo (11 points) converted a three-point play when he fought for an offensive rebound, banked it home and sank the ensuing free throw to put Elmont ahead 44-42 with 37 seconds left. Travis Robinson-Morgan (10 points) made 1 of 2 free throws with 7.7 seconds left to put Elmont up by three.
South Side’s Dami Awosika forced overtime with a hurried, off-balance three-pointer that banked in at the buzzer to make it a tie at 45 as the crowd erupted.
A tentative first overtime period featured only one basket for each team, layups by Burgess, with a crowd-pleasing behind-the-back move, and Awosika on a breakaway. Lonergan nailed a corner trey 30 seconds into the second overtime for a 50-47 advantage, but that turned out to be South Side’s last hurrah. Robinson-Morgan answered with a left-corner trey of his own and Victor Olawoye followed with a pull-up jumper.
South Side forced Elmont to use all of the shot clock, but Ndefo beat the buzzer with his putback after another offensive rebound in traffic. Timmy Awosika made a free throw to make it 54-51 with 13 seconds left. “I do whatever I can for my teammates, especially the seniors,” Ndefo said. “We’ve been talking about this game all year.”
Ndefo made sure the conversations will continue in the Elmont community when he assured the victory with an offensive rebound after two missed free throws could have opened the door for South Side to tie it with a three-pointer. He made his free throw with 7.2 seconds left clinched an exhausting and exhilarating game.
“We fought and they fought,” Burgess said. “It was an amazing game. But we have one more to go.”
If Elmont is to advance to the state tournament at Glens Falls, it will have to defeat Harborfields in the Long Island Class A championship/state regional final on March 6 at 1 p.m. at LIU Post.