Shane Gatling wasn’t afraid to admit it. “When they were on their run and our shots weren’t going down, I thought maybe this is the end of the season,” the Baldwin senior guard said.
Instead, Gatling had a big hand in ensuring that it was the start of something very special. After a scoring drought of 8:27 spanning the third and fourth quarters that coincided with a 14-0 Half Hollow Hills West run, Gatling and teammate Jared Rhoden took over.
Gatling netted nine of his 26 points and Rhoden scored six of his 11 in the final 2:41 as Baldwin closed the game on a 15-0 run to secure a 65-55 win in the Long Island Class AA/state regional boys basketball championship game yesterday before a roaring, standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 at LIU Post.
“If we’re not scoring, then we’ve got to get stops,” Gatling said. “Steals and transition baskets. That’s our game.”
Baldwin (22-1) will take that high-intensity, fast-paced style to the state Class AA semifinals in Glens Falls for the first time since 2012. The Bruins will face Middletown at 2:45 p.m. Saturday.
Richard Altenord scored 20 points and Kian Dalyrimple 14 for the Colts (21-3).
Altenord slashed for four acrobatic layups in the final 2:48 of the third quarter and Dalyrimple added a step-in three-pointer and two free throws as Hills West took a 55-50 lead with 2:49 left.
“It’s a game of runs,” said Baldwin coach Darius Burton, whose face, signature white towel and beige dress shirt were soaked with perspiration. “I just told them to stay the course. We had to play zone because of foul trouble early, but we switched to a man-to-man. We kept defending and we kept taking shots.”
The Bruins’ scoring drought ended when Rhoden pulled up for a jumper that cut the deficit to 55-52 with 2:41 left. “Big-time players rise in big situations,” Burton said. “Jared is a big-time player.”
At that point, Gatling, who later said he and Rhoden form “the best backcourt on Long Island,” sensed some defensive urgency. “I knew we needed a stop,” he said.
After a deflection, Gatling pounced. “I saw the ball floating in the air and I grabbed it and was thinking of the and-one,” he said.
Gatling dribbled the length of the court, shielded his body from a defender, banked it in from the right side and drew the foul. His free throw tied it at 55 with 2:24 left.
Rhoden nailed another pull-up jumper and the Bruins forced turnovers on the Colts’ next two possessions. The ball found its way to Gatling, and he found his way to the rim. Twice he drew fouls and twice in one-and-one scenarios, he hit both free throws for a 61-55 lead with 49 seconds left. He went 7-for-7 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Rhoden put the exclamation point on the closing surge with a breakaway dunk. “That’s what Baldwin does,” he said. “We make defensive stops and we make runs.”
The Bruins had last licks and scored the winning run.