Don’t call it a ‘dry spell.’ That would be drastically underselling what the Port Washington boys basketball program has been going through.
The Vikings haven’t won a county title since 1947, when they captured their second in a row. On Tuesday night, however, they glimpsed their oasis in the desert. Port Washington made all the clutch plays down the stretch of its Nassau Class AA semifinal against top-seeded Baldwin in a 45-39 victory at Farmingdale State’s Nold Athletic Complex.
No. 4 Port Washington (17-4) can win its first title in 72 years when it faces defending county champion Uniondale at 5 p.m. Sunday at Farmingdale State. The Vikings won’t need any extra motivation, but if they did it lies in how the Knights ended their past two seasons in the quarterfinals.
“That game is everything,” said senior swingman Marc Daly, who had a game-high 20 points and made many of the big plays late for Port Washington. “To be in the position we’re in is special. We can’t let it go.”
Added senior Benjamin Spier, who had four of his six points in the final 2:22: “After they ended our season the last two years, we’d like a little revenge.”
The senior-laden Vikings are the rare squad in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The group has played together for four years and, as Spier said, “the chemistry we have now is sick — you turn to the basket and you know where everyone is.”
That was the case in the critical moments as the Bruins (18-2) held a 35-31 lead as the middle of the fourth quarter approached. Spier found Daly on the wing and he sank a three-pointer to make it a one-point game with 4:29 left. Baldwin’s Isaiah Walker got the margin back to three with a putback on the ensuing possession, but Daly drained another three off a feed from Louis Blakeman to knot the score 37 with 3:27 left. Daly had 10 fourth-quarter points.
“That [first] three-pointer came when things could have gotten away from us and put us right back in it,” Vikings coach Sean Dooley said. “This group is exceptional when it plays together.”
“It was just another shot when I took it, but looking back it was big,” Daly said. “We’d beaten them before [37-36 in the teams’ second regular-season game] and knew we could do it again.”
After a Baldwin miss, Spier was fouled on the rebound. He sank both ends of a one-and-one to break the tie and scored on a layup on a pass from John Bellini on the Vikings’ next possession to make it a two-possession game. Baldwin was 1-for-7 with a turnover in its final eight possessions and finished the game 0-for-13 on three-pointers. Rhyjon Blackwell had 14 points to pace the Bruins.
Spier had nine rebounds and four assists and Blakeman had 11 rebounds for Port Washington.
“Making the right plays at the end is what we’ve done all year,” Dooley said. “That’s our experience coming through.”