In a rough-and-tumble game in which five players fouled out, Southampton's Shaundell Fishburne found peace and quiet in the sanctuary of the free-throw line.
"I shut everything out," said Fishburne, who sank four crucial free throws in the final 35 seconds, with noisy fans trying to distract him, as the Mariners held off defending Suffolk and Long Island champion Babylon, 64-59, Wednesday in the Suffolk Class B championship game at Northport High School.
Fishburne scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and made 14 of 16 free throws. "I know I can make free throws so I try to get the ball in my hands late in the game," said Fishburne, who described his foul-line routine thusly: "Two dribbles [right hand]. Hold the ball [left hand]. Square my feet up and let it go."
Southampton (16-4), which had lost to Babylon twice in the regular season, will face Stony Brook in the Suffolk B-CD game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State and the Nassau B champion for the Long Island championship on March 4. Babylon finished 16-3.
"I know Babylon is a physical, football-mentality type of team. It's not a bad thing; it's who they are," Southampton coach Herm Lamison said. "We had to grow a scab. We had to get roughed up a bit to get tougher."
The Mariners' grit showed in the up-and-down, back-and-forth fourth quarter. Brendan Laing (17 points) converted a layup on a feed from Jake Carlock (14 points) to tie it for the last time at 58. But Laing missed a free throw with a chance for a three-point play, Fishburne grabbed the defensive rebound and drew a foul. He swished both with 16.4 seconds left.
Ray Wardell (14 points) made one of two free throws for the Panthers before reserve Nitauke Williams was fouled. Williams, who replaced Izzy Johnson -- one of those players who fouled out -- sank both for a three-point lead with 14.2 seconds left.
Babylon ran a play for Dillon Kelly to get a three-pointer from the right corner -- Nick Antolini, who had made three treys earlier, would have the first option, but he had fouled out -- but Taylor Sanders (14 points) made a spectacular block. Fishburne picked up the loose ball, got fouled and iced the game with -- what else -- two free throws.
"Shaundell is our best player, our money player," Lamison said.
Fishburne, who has been money throughout his four-year varsity career, said, "We knew we'd be playing Babylon again. We used those earlier losses as motivation. This is my first county championship. It feels great."
Shhhhh. You can hear him smiling.