An upset was brewing at Hofstra.
Jared Rhoden knew he and his Baldwin teammates put themselves in a precarious position by letting No. 4 Massapequa enter halftime down by two points. This wasn’t the way Shane Gatling envisioned his senior season would end, falling as the No. 1 seed in the Nassau AA boys basketball semifinals.
“That thought is always racing through your mind, but we’re the Baldwin Bruins,” Rhoden said. “We do what we do.”
And what they do is win.
For the 10th time in 11 years, the Bruins will appear in the Nassau AA championship. They earned their most recent trip by defeating Massapequa, 51-43, Tuesday night. Gatling led all scorers with 17 points. Rhoden had 15 and Justin Caldwell added 10.
No. 2 Westbury awaits in the final, which will be played Saturday at 9 p.m. at LIU Post.
“It’s the Baldwin tradition,” coach Darius Burton said. “I’ve got to say, I’ve been lucky. It’s all the credit to the kids. They work hard to get here and they expect to get here.”
But while the Bruins (18-1) expected another championship berth, Massapequa (16-5) had other ideas.
The Chiefs kept Baldwin out of transition and executed enough offensively to enter halftime down 23-21. Bryce Paladino led the way with eight of his 16 points.
“At halftime we said we should have been up more,” Gatling said. “We wanted to pick it up so it wouldn’t be our last game.”
Massapequa continued to stay close, and Chris Wasson’s three-pointer with five seconds left in the third quarter cut Baldwin’s lead back to two at 33-31 entering the fourth.
“(Massapequa) did a good job of help defense,” Burton said, “but on our half we missed some chippies that would have opened it up a bit. Give credit to Massapequa. They did a good job.”
But Baldwin sped up the game in the fourth and opened the quarter on a 12-5 run to take a 45-36 lead with 1:47 left. During that spurt, Rhoden scored five points on a pair of jumpers assisted by Gatling, who added four points of his own. The Chiefs never got closer than four afterwards.
“I was thinking like we can’t make it an upset,” Gatling said. “I believe that we’re the best team on Long Island and so do my teammates. We had to prove it. We couldn’t lose this game.”