Down by 14 points but not down on themselves.
"Never," Center Moriches guard Tim Rowland said. "When we're down, we'll bring the pressure nonstop. Even if we're down 25 points. But I'm glad it was only 14."
Rowland scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as Center Moriches used its swarming, trapping defense to overcome that large second-quarter deficit and beat plucky Locust Valley, 55-50, Tuesday night in the Class B Long Island Championship/state regional semifinal at Farmingdale State.
The Red Devils (16-7) will play in the state Class B regional final at 1 p.m. Saturday at New Paltz looking for their first trip to Glens Falls since 1998. The Falcons (13-7), playing in the LIC for the first time, looked like the more poised team early.
With Matt Campanella scoring 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter, Locust Valley went on a 9-0 run that gave it a 20-8 lead.
A baseline jumper by Alex Rawa (16 points) provided a 27-13 lead with 6:08 left in the second quarter.
"That's when I knew we had to step up our defensive intensity," said Maleek Harris, who scored 13 points, including two huge baskets in traffic during a furious fourth quarter that included five lead changes and a tie.
"We always get stronger as the game goes on," Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas said. "We just had to keep doing what we were doing. And the shots started falling.
"I think our defensive intensity wore them down."
Relentless double-teams forced Rawa to give up the ball several times, or force some tough shots. But he followed his own hurried three-pointer for a putback that gave the Falcons a 47-46 lead with 3:23 left.
Then, scrambling to avoid a trap, he fired a cross-court pass to Joe Gilio, who nailed a trey from the corner that gave Locust Valley its last lead, 50-49. The Nassau B champions did not score again.
Rowland, after missing two straight from downtown, drove the lane for a floater that put the Red Devils on top for good, 51-50.
"I saw an opening so I went to the basket," Rowland said. "I thought Alex [Rawa] would try to take a charge, but he pulled up so I went for the layup."
Akyse Brown (12 points) and Rowland each made one of two free throws for a three-point advantage. Both teams turned the ball over and Rawa found himself with a chance to tie it. His pullup three from the left wing went in and out with 9.5 seconds left. Rawa held his face in his hands and wore a mask of agony as he watched Rowland seal the deal with two free throws in the final seconds.
"We kept our composure and that helped," Harris said. "We can change the whole momentum of the game with one steal. Our bench, the crowd, the players on the court -- we all get a morale boost from our defense. That's why we're never really down."
No matter what the scoreboard says.