Downtown is where Center Moriches felt most comfortable Saturday. The Red Devils took turns draining three-pointers with uncanny accuracy, so many in fact, that they now will take their hot-shooting act on the road . . . to downtown Binghamton.
Tyiquon Nix, Nakia Durham, David Falco and Dylan Bryant sank three apiece from beyond the arc and Troy Goode added two to lead Center Moriches to a 72-57 victory over Spackenkill in a state Class B Southeast Regional final played at Suffolk CCC-Selden.
The Red Devils (21-4) advanced to the state Final Four for the first time since 1987, when they were a Class C school and the event was played in Glens Falls. Center Moriches will play its semifinal game at 7:15 p.m. on Friday at Manes Arena in Binghamton.
“Coach makes us shoot at least 50 threes a day in practice, so we’re confident shooters,” said Goode, who scored all 12 of his points in the first half, and added three steals as part of a swarming, trapping defense that gave the Poughkeepsie school some trouble. “When one guy makes a three, it gives everyone confidence.”
The torrent of trifectas more than compensated for the early foul trouble that sidelined Sean Braithwaite, Center Moriches’ leading scorer, for more than half the game. Braithwaite sat with his third personal with 1:05 left in the first quarter. By the time he returned late in the third quarter, the Red Devils had a 51-32 lead.
“He’s our best player so we all had to just step it up for Sean,” said Nix, who scored 19 points and added four steals.
Center Moriches shared the ball and the wealth. Goode and Falco (11 points, 10 rebounds) excelled in the first half, with Falco closing it with a straightaway three that beat the buzzer for a 39-26 lead at the break. It was too early for a dagger, but it definitely inflicted a wound. “That was a great feeling,” Falco said. “Our team is mentally tough and when Sean got in foul trouble, we just played through it. If defenses give us the outside shot, we’ll take it. It’s a lethal weapon for us.”
In the second half, Center Moriches flashed a different set of guns. Nix scored 14 after intermission. Bryant (nine points), who came off the bench to replace Braithwaite, hit two of his threes in the third quarter, while Durham (17 points, eight rebounds) sank all of his threes in the final period when Center Moriches built its lead to as many as 22 points. Burly 6-4 center Kyiev Bennermon powered inside for 17 points for the Spartans (20-3), who enjoyed a substantial height advantage but couldn’t match the Red Devils’ defensive quickness and perimeter prowess.
“Right on top of the board before the game I wrote ‘mental toughness’ and we showed it,” said Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas, who was the starting point guard for Bridgehampton’s state Class D championship team in 1996. “In practice, we’ll sometimes use Sean with the second stringers to make that unit stronger, so we’re seasoned that way.”
Of his team’s incredible success from long range, Thomas said, “We thought we’d get some open shots because of quickness on the dribble drive. So we took a lot of extra reps shooting the three in practice. But this has to be our best shooting performance of the year.”