It was as if Isaiah Bien-Aise had to play defense while wearing handcuffs. Hard to lock down your opponent when you are under lock and key yourself.
“At the beginning of the fourth quarter, I got my fourth foul and I had to be conservative,” the 6-4 Westbury senior forward said. “But I still had to be aggressive on offense and on the boards.”
Bien-Aise was anything but passive, scoring 12 of his 29 points in the final period and keying a clinching 10-0 run late as host No. 4 Westbury pulled away from No. 5 Oceanside, 75-55, Wednesday afternoon in a Nassau Class AA quarterfinal.
The Sailors surged to within 58-50 after two straight layups by Brian Pod and there were nearly five minutes remaining to complete the comeback. But Bien-Aise, who also snared six rebounds, scored on a baseline drive to restore order.
Pod (10 points) hit a jumper in the lane to make it 65-54 with 2:47 left but the Green Dragons finished with a flourish. Jalyn Dunlap (18 points, seven rebounds, three assists) scored on a breakaway dunk and Bien-Aise followed with eight straight points, including four free throws, a layup and his own dunk, to send Westbury (12-8) into Monday’s semifinal against No. 1 Uniondale at 5 p.m. at Farmingdale State. Oceanside finished 13-7 and got 14 points from impressive 6-8 sophomore center Jake Tavroff.
Point guard Jordan Redd, who also played the fourth quarter with four fouls, scored 18 points and delivered seven assists as Westbury kept the ball moving on offense. “It’s a like a virus,” Dunlap said of the team’s unselfishness. “It spreads to the rest of the team. If everyone is in the game on offense, it makes it tougher for defenses to stop us.”
Westbury likes to employ an aggressive, full-court, trapping defense that turns steals into transition layups. Redd and Dunlap both pick-pocketed the Oceanside guards in the open court for easy baskets. “We stress defense in practice,” Dunlap said. “We like to run and we know we can’t run if we don’t get stops.”
Westbury first-year coach Jason Bryant said his team “looked good offensively” but had to back off a little defensively at times because of foul trouble. “We had been able to put on the press right after a basket, but we had to get a little conservative,” Bryant said.
Of Bien-Aise, who was watched Tuesday by several college coaches, Bryant said, “He’s the engine that drives this team.”
It’s a team that defeated Uniondale in last season’s county final and then stunned Half Hollow Hills East in the Long Island championship on a buzzer-beating putback by Dunlap off a missed free throw. But after last year’s scoring leaders Jonathan Dean and Darius Young graduated, Bien-Aise acknowledged, “Everybody thought we’d crumble this year. We wanted to prove we’re still a top team.”
The Green Dragons are looking forward to Monday’s rematch with Uniondale. “We know we’re the underdogs,” Dunlap said, “but we like it that way.”