RJ Meyers-Turner has a championship pedigree, and it was there for all to see Sunday.
Uniondale was trying to defend its Nassau Class AA boys basketball title before a near-capacity crowd at Farmingdale State’. And Port Washington was having none of it, cutting what had been a 12-point lead with 2:45 remaining to one with 14 seconds to go behind Marc Daly’s three-point shooting.
The 5-8 Meyers-Turner is the only returning starter from the 2018 champs, the rudder for a talented-but-inexperienced group and the guy that coach Tom Diana says “competes with the heart of a lion.”
And that was the moment when his thirst to win was unmistakable.
The senior guard made two key plays in those final 14 seconds that gave Uniondale enough room to scratch out a 51-48 victory. The Knights (19-3) are Nassau champions for the 12th time. They will play Suffolk champ Brentwood (22-1) in the 8 p.m. Long Island Class AA championship game on Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.
Daly sank three three-pointers in the final 1:20 including the one with 14 seconds left to cut a Knights lead that had been 47-35 on a Meyers-Turner steal and fast break layup to 49-48. On the ensuing possession, Meyers-Turner was fouled, went to the line for a one-and-one and made one free throw. On the other end the Vikings (17-5) tried a pass out of the low block to Daly on the three-point line, but Meyers-Turner got a deflection that led to a turnover and then one of two free throws by Cody McLean with one second left.
Daly, who finished with 20 points, was off the mark with a desperation heave at the buzzer. “I knew that I would have to be a leader for this team from the moment the last game last season ended [in a LIC loss to Hills East],” said Meyers-Turner, who had 16 points, four assists and five steals. “I’m not done and we’re not done.”
“RJ’s been four years as a starter and two years as a captain,” Uniondale coach Tom Diana said. “He’s smart, courageous and a winner and it all comes in a 5-8 package.”
Juwan Schuford and Justin Evelyn each added eight points for the Knights, who forced 20 Port Washington turnovers and converted them into 23 big points. Benjamin Spier had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Vikings.
Asked about the final minutes of the game, Diana said “we showed some of the inexperience and they made some tough, tough shots. They had a tone of heart to make that comeback and we had what it took to weather the storm.”
“No one on our team is afraid of being challenged.” Schuford said. “When things got tight, we weren’t afraid. We re-focused and made the plays we needed to make to win it. In a lot of ways, I think this team was built for this moment.”