Rob Pecorelli lined up on the right block for the second of Jalen Burgess’ two foul shots with 1.7 seconds left.
Pecorelli’s Harborfields boys basketball team clung to a one-point lead provided by Alex Bloom’s layup 18 seconds earlier. But Elmont already had inflicted serious damage with offensive rebounding. A tip-in likely would have sent the Tornados home from the Nassau-Suffolk Challenge with their fourth loss of the season.
As Burgess’ free throw sailed through the air and caromed off the back rim, Pecorelli boxed K.C. Ndefo — a 6-3 sophomore who slammed home a miss earlier in the game — into the lane. The 6-2 senior leapt and snared the ball with his right hand, his left being held down by the scrum underneath the hoop.
And that was the game. Harborfields defeated Elmont, 61-60, Saturday at Uniondale.
For Pecorelli and the Tornados (9-3), that last play, coupled with the senior’s impressive shooting, was a welcomed sign.
“He’s back,” coach John Tampori said.
Pecorelli said he missed the team’s first seven games with mononucleosis. His stamina suffered, and Tampori said Pecorelli needed about two weeks to return to basketball shape.
Pecorelli’s 21-point, five-rebound performance against the Spartans (9-3) indicated the return is complete.
“I’m happy to be back,” said Pecorelli, who converted five three-pointers. “The last couple of games I’ve finally been back to strong enough that I can play all game. It’s good to be back. I’m happy to be a part of this.”
By “this,” he meant a senior-heavy team with realistic aspirations of representing Suffolk in the Long Island Class A championship.
Harborfields flashed its credentials against Elmont by burying 9 of 13 first-half three-point attempts to take a 41-30 lead into halftime. The Tornadoes again responded after the Spartans gained control with an 18-1 run to start the third quarter.
“They [didn’t] panic,” Tampori said.
The shots started to fall — threes by Danny Morgan (16 points), Malcolm Wynter (14 points, 12 assists) and Pecorelli helped Harborfields take a 58-54 lead midway through the fourth. Elmont answered again and gained a 60-59 advantage on a floater by Travis Robinson-Morgan (21 points) with a minute left.
But after Bloom gave Harborfields the lead, Pecorelli took matters into his own hands.
“With everything he does for us,” Wynter said, “it’s great to have him back.”