Uniondale is hard at work on some really tough math. It took the Nassau Class AA basketball champion, subtracted four starters via graduation and somehow is close to repeating.
The second-seeded Knights are one win away from a second consecutive crown after prevailing with defense, 41-25, in a rock fight of a semifinal against No. 3 Farmingdale Tuesday night at Farmingdale State. Uniondale also won their two regular-season meetings.
“We did lose four starters, but you’ve got to believe,” Uniondale coach Tom Diana said. “We always take the balls out and dream. We never sell the kids short on what they could do, otherwise they would sell themselves short. We never thought being here was impossible. It’s exactly where we hoped to be.”
Uniondale (18-3) will face No. 4 Port Washington in Sunday’s 5 p.m. final at Farmingdale State. Suffolk Class AA champion Brentwood (22-1) awaits in the Long Island championship game.
Latrell Williams had 12 points, Rolando Meyers-Turner had eight points and Justyin Evelyn had seven points for the Knights. Those numbers are not big, but they looked huge given the defensive effort Uniondale turned in. It held the Dalers (17-4) to 17-percent shooting, including 2-for-27 on three-pointers. Farmingdale made seven threes in the teams’ last meeting, a three-point defeat.
“We always stress the defense,” Williams said, “because that’s what we bring in every game.”
“I thought our defense was through the roof,” Diana said. “[Williams] was tough on defense to the ball and it was hard to match the physicality he brought. It might have been his best defensive game.”
Uniondale limited the Dalers to six points in each of the first three quarters. It opened its 17-12 halftime lead to 10 on a pair of Williams free throws with 4:18 left in the third. Farmingdale cut it to 22-18 on Luis Smikle Jr.’s baseline jumper with 1:26 to go, but the Knights scored the next 10 points for a 32-18 lead with 6:27 to play. Eight points in that burst came at the foul line, where Uniondale went 20-for-25.
Marvel Chambers’ nine points led Farmingdale, but he needed to take 19 shots against the Knights’ swarming defense to get them.
“The last time we played, they were more physical,” Meyers-Turner said. “This time we brought it to them.”
Asked if this team defied the notion it might have to rebuild, Williams said, “We just reloaded.”
Meyers-Turner is the lone returning starter from last season, but believes that experience can serve this young team.
“A lot of people on this team were there when we won the championship, but they didn’t get a lot of game experience,” he said. “They were part of the ride, and I have to believe that will be worth something.”