Most of Xavier Merriweather’s game is based on motion. Port Washington’s 6-2 senior is a smooth mover without the ball and an easy glider going to the hoop.
But Wednesday night, Merriweather showed that he can do plenty of damage while standing still.
He converted four spot-up three-pointers with his feet on the floor and sank four crucial late-game free throws among his 30 points to lead Port Washington to a 61-57 victory over host Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK in a crucial Nassau AA2 game.
Port Washington improved to 4-3 while Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK fell to 3-4, despite 20 points from Andrew Cardello and 16 from Jack Stafford.
“The threes aren’t really his strong suit but I trust him,” Vikings coach Sean Dooley said of the player his teammates call ‘X’. “He has the confidence to take big shots.”
There were plenty of those for Merriweather, who is one of Nassau’s leading scorers averaging more than 23 points per game. He scored the Vikings’ last seven points to provide a 28-26 halftime lead.
When Cardello scored eight straight points in the third quarter to bring the Hawks to within 41-38, Merriweather nailed a three. He began the fourth quarter with a steal and layup for a 48-39 lead, but Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK climbed back with a 7-0 run.
The Hawks got to within two points of the lead three times in late in the fourth: on a putback by Brandon Mintz that made it 55-53; on two free throws by Stafford that made it 57-55, and on two free throws by Cordello that made it 59-57 with 15.6 seconds left.
Each time Port Washington had the X-factor. Merriweather made four straight free throws to provide four-point cushions, and sealed the deal when he caught an in-bounds pass under duress and tossed a soft lob to a streaking Jagger Alagna, who converted a layup with 7.8 seconds left for the final points. Jagger had the dagger, but ‘X’ marked the spot for most of the big points.
“I like to move without the ball drive to the basket. My teammates look to set off-ball screens,” Merriweather said. “But if they give me the open three, I’ll take it.”
For his game-clinching free throws, Merriweather had to endure some jeering from the Hawks’ fans as he bounced the ball on the foul line. But he didn’t even hear them. “I just tune it out,” he said.
Dooley said Merriweather is only a 68 percent free-throw shooter, but the later the game, the more efficient he gets. “I just knew he’d step up and make them,” Dooley said. “The most impressive thing about him is that every defense gears up to take him away and he still gets his points.”