It didn’t bother T.J. Cluess that he was having a poor shooting night.
“As a shooter, you have to have a short memory and you have to want to keep shooting. Otherwise, you’re not really a shooter,” the 6-5 senior Floral Park swingman said. “You can’t let a bad shot affect the next shot or the next play.”
So even though Cluess had missed a crucial one-and-one moments earlier and admitted, “I couldn’t hit a shot all night,” when another opportunity presented itself, Cluess was ready. With his father, Tim, the Iona College coach, watching from the bleachers, Cluess hit a three-pointer from the right wing with 43 seconds left that held up as the game-winner in host Floral Park’s tense, 49-47, victory over Glen Cove Tuesday night in Nassau A-III.
“The defensive guys were going under the screens so I knew I’d have a good look,” Cluess said of his only basket from beyond the arc.
Those were the only points for Floral Park in the fourth quarter, as Glen Cove (8-2 in league, 15-2 overall) riding a 10-game winning streak, scored 13 straight points to take a 47-46 lead on Kevin Ernest’s steal and layup with 1:08 left. Ernest scored 23 points, seven in the fourth, and Francis Phelan scored six of his 19 points in the final period to erase a 46-34 deficit.
After Ernest’s basket, on which he picked Cluess’ pocket, Floral Park coach Sean Boyle called a timeout and drew up a play for Brian Fox (15 points, six rebounds) to drive to the basket. “There was a lid on the basket all night for us. But we thought Fox would either get a layup or draw a foul,” Boyle said. “Then Glen Cove switched from a man-to-man to a 2-3 zone out of the timeout. Our kids did a nice job of recognizing the zone and got it to T.J.”
Even though Cluess (13 points, 13 rebounds) was misfiring for much of the game, Boyle liked his chances. “T.J. with an open shot? I’ll bet on that twice,” Boyle said.
Once was enough and Cluess’ shot not only won a thriller but also clinched a playoff berth for Floral Park (6-3 in league) — only after some anxious moments as Glen Cove missed three shots in the final seconds. “It wasn’t the prettiest fourth quarter,” Cluess said with a grin, “but when I took the shot, it felt good and it looked good.”