Jonathan Dean’s game was loud, but his reaction to Westbury’s first Nassau Class AA boys basketball championship was subdued.
He was light on his feet but has played all season with a heavy heart. So amid the raucous cheers, Dean shed a few tears.
“I lost my aunt, my uncle and Coach Redd,” Dean said quietly after his 21 points and 10 rebounds helped power No. 2 Westbury to a solid 70-50 victory over No. 1 Uniondale on Saturday night in the county championship game at Hofstra. “I think they were watching over me tonight.”
Beloved long-time assistant coach Edwin Redd died of a heart attack at the start of the season, head coach Dave Graff said, and Dean revealed that his aunt and uncle, Pam and Ronnie Webb, also passed away in 2016. “It’s been difficult emotionally for Jonathan,” Graff said. “Then he got hurt early in the season. But he came back like I knew he would. I had faith in him.”
Dean was hot early, taking advantage of good low-post position to score nine first-half points as the Green Dragons (19-3) took a 37-28 lead. Dean and Darius Young, his friend and fellow senior co-captain, each scored six points in the fourth quarter as Westbury cruised into the Long Island Class AA championship game against Half Hollow Hills East at 1:30 p.m. next Sunday at Stony Brook University.
Danny Ashley led Uniondale (18-4) with 19 points.
“We finally put it all together tonight,” Graff said. “We played a complete game — offense, defense, rebounding. We played about as well as we can play.”
Young added 17 points. Brandon Ottley had nine points, six assists and four steals and Khalid Ketchen grabbed nine rebounds. “It was our best game of the season,” Young said.
It wasn’t quite out of reach until Dean took over early in the fourth quarter. On the Green Dragons’ first two possessions, he sliced down the lane between multiple defenders and finished with acrobatic baskets. He also took a nice dump-down pass from Ottley for another layup that made it 55-38 with six minutes left.
Dean was quick to credit his teammates. “We haven’t played a game all year where everything was clicking. But tonight, everything clicked,’’ he said. “We played lock-down defense and we got loose balls.”
Graff cited Dean’s fourth-quarter flurry as crucial to avoiding any late-game drama, recalling that the Green Dragons barely held on to a 10-point lead against Baldwin in the semifinals.
“There was that one stretch at the start of the fourth quarter when we spread them out and put Jonathan in the middle. He made two spectacular layups and that carried us through,” Graff said. “It’s been a tough year for him, but he made those people he lost very proud.”