GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - In one week, Sheldon Hagigal's world transformed from cheers to tears.
On March 13, Westbury's do-everything guard hit a buzzer-beater at Hofstra to give the Green Dragons a stunning two-point comeback victory over Harborfields in the Long Island Class A championship game, precipitating a midcourt pileup and a raucous, joyous celebration.
Yesterday, Hagigal and his teammates were the ones who got stunned. After Westbury's eight-point fourth-quarter lead was erased by a game-ending 16-1 surge by Newark in a state Class A semifinal, the 6-2 junior guard couldn't hold back emotions of a different sort.
"This really hurts," said Hagigal, barely audible after several tearful minutes in the locker room after Westbury's 55-48 loss.
"I think we lost to a team under our caliber," he said.
Hagigal's play, however, was of the highest caliber. He slashed to the basket frequently in scoring 17 points and had six rebounds and three assists.
Hagigal's reverse layup, wing jumper and heady outlet pass early in the fourth quarter helped put Westbury ahead 47-39. But then he and his teammates went cold, thanks to the chilling shot-blocking efficiency of Newark's 6-7 Javon McCrea, who had three of his eight blocks in the final two minutes.
Asked if he'd seen any big men on Long Island who could dominate a game the way McCrea did - the University of Buffalo-bound senior also had 25 points and 18 rebounds - Hagigal quickly blurted, "Tobias Harris."
Hagigal, who missed a pull-up jumper that may have been altered by McCrea and a corner trey with Westbury trailing 52-48 and 54 seconds left, didn't get much help down the stretch. "I don't really know what happened," he said, fighting back more tears. "We just couldn't score."
Westbury wound up scoring only nine points in the period. It wasn't for lack of effort, however. "Even though we lost, we played hard and we played together," Hagigal said.
No one has played harder or better than Hagigal during Westbury's playoff run. He scored 33 points in the 58-56 victory over Harborfields and 37 in the Nassau title game against South Side.
"Nobody knows how good this kid is because he missed so much of the season," said Westbury coach Dave Graff, referring to the six weeks Hagigal missed with a fractured fibula. "He's just been at full strength the last three or four weeks."
In that time, he has displayed a full range of skills and the ability to rise to the moment. "He carried us again," Graff said. "He can handle. He can shoot. He can drive to the goal. He can make big shots. There's nothing he can't do."