The last words spoken among the Stony Brook boys basketball team during its final timeout were, not surprisingly, defensive-minded in what had been a low-scoring game. "Get a stop," more than one player said as the Bears nursed a three-point lead on Friends Academy with a little more than a minute left in the fourth quarter of last night's Long Island Class C final.
Tim Pandolfi obliged with a defensive finish Stony Brook needed. The junior guard, who also led on offense with 16 points, came up with a steal near the three-point line on the possession coming out of the timeout and cruised the other way for a layup to make it a five-point lead with 48 seconds remaining.
From there, Pandolfi and Logan Vimont made a pair of free throws and Stony Brook beat Friends, 35-29, to win its first Long Island boys basketball championship in program history at Bay Shore.
"We weren't getting a lot of points on offense," said Pandolfi, who with Vimont (12 points, nine rebounds) were the Bears' only double-digit scorers. "A steal really helped. It always starts on the defensive end and everything else will come."
Including another game to play. Stony Brook (14-4) advanced to the state Southeast Regional final at Pace University on Friday, where it will play the winner of Westchester's Blind Brook and Orange County's S.S. Seward at 4:45 p.m. The winner of that goes to the state Class C semifinals in Glens Falls on March 19.
"It was a defensive-oriented game, but that's OK," Stony Brook coach Michael Hickey said. "I don't care if we win, 2-1. We played well. There were times when we mishandled the ball a little bit, but I was pleased defensively."
Stony Brook held Friends (12-7) to the same amount of first-half points - 12 - that Pandolfi scored in the first two quarters. The Bears led by 10 at the half, and even after going without a field goal in the first six minutes of the third quarter, still led 25-17 at the start of the fourth.
Friends, led by T.J. Hefele's 12 points, made a push to pull within 29-26 with 2:05 left. But coming out of that final timeout, Pandolfi found the ball in his hands with a clear lane to the basket.
"Who better to have?" Hickey said of his leading scorer. "He's a speed demon and dropped it in. That gave us some breathing room."