Ron Winkler said he didn't pick up a basketball until the 10th grade.
"That is when I started playing, and it's been quite a development for me since,'' the Farmingdale senior said. "I wish I started earlier, but the people around me on this team have helped me become better each day.''
Winkler developed just in time to lead Farmingdale to a county championship game.
Behind Winkler's 15 points and 14 rebounds, fourth-seeded Farmingdale dethroned reigning county champion and top-seeded Baldwin, 45-37, Wednesday night in a Nassau Class AA semifinal at SUNY Old Westbury.
"He may have started playing ball late, but he's been one great player for us all season,'' said Malik Seelal, who added 10 points for Farmingdale.
Farmingdale (15-3) will play No. 3 Uniondale (16-2) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Adelphi for the county title.
With Farmingdale up 39-33 with 37 seconds left, Dan McKeon made two foul shots to seal it.
Farmingdale, which led all game, increased its margin to 33-25 with 3:45 to play when McKeon nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key. The Dalers pushed the lead to 10 with a basket from Winkler.
"To have a game like this, in a semifinal after all the practicing and work is just amazing,'' Winkler said.
Shane Gatling scored all 10 of Baldwin's first-half points but was scoreless after halftime. Myking Richardson kept Baldwin (14-4) in it by scoring all seven of his points in the fourth. Paul Nosworthy added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
All season Seelal thought Farmingdale had something to prove. That's because the Dalers weren't selected in a preseason coaches poll to finish atop their conference. Not many pegged them to be in the county final.
"Since the first day, that was our motivation,'' Seelal said. "We thrive off that, and now we're ready to win Saturday.''