Almost everything fell into place for Baldwin at the Long Island Class AA boys’ basketball championship last Saturday night — after it appeared that everything had fallen to pieces when senior All-Conference center Jordan Williams went down with a knee injury just 1:39 into the Bruins’ battle with Northport at Hofstra University.
But one perfect pass, from Tigers point guard Matt Smith to Mike Milligan with 52
seconds left in the fourth quarter, led to a layup — Northport’s only field goal of the quarter and its first in more than 10 minutes — that put the Tigers ahead for good in a 43-40 victory.
Up until Smith threaded the needle through the paint to Milligan, Baldwin (17-4) managed to overcome adversity in many shapes and sizes, limiting Northport’s 6-foot-9 center, Luke Petrasek, to just 14 points — none in the fourth quarter — and nine rebounds, after losing Williams so early in the game that not all of the 3,000-plus fans in attendance had settled in. Even after senior Eric Mack got into foul trouble in the second and third quarters and the offense struggled to find a rhythm, the Bruins still forged ahead, 40-38, with 2:45 left to play when junior MiKing Richardson whipped off a wrap-around pass on the baseline to set up senior Elijah McMillan’s jumper.
“How they fought [was amazing],” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said of his team, which didn’t return a single starter from last season’s Long Island championship squad and had just six players back in all. “They could have put their heads between their legs because we didn’t have Jordan. This team was one of the most enjoyable teams as far as heart and determination. They played above and beyond their talent, and I appreciate that.”
Mack remained aggressive in the paint even after picking up his second foul in the second quarter and a third just after intermission, finishing with six blocks and pushing his school-record total to 130 in 21 games. And the Baldwin bench, relied
on extensively throughout the game, contributed 15 points while helping to limit the Tigers to their second-lowest point total of the year.
“It’s a tribute to our depth [and the fact] that the kids believed in each other,” Burton said. “We go 10 or 11 deep, and that’s why we have confidence [in everyone] and I’m not hesitant to [use them].”
Senior Travais Hylton and Mack tied for the team lead with eight points each, while senior Oluwa Bembury, a key player in the Nassau Class AA title victory over Uniondale a week earlier, scored six. Richardson added six points and McMillan had five.
The defense continued its impressive postseason showing, limiting Petrasek, who had scored at least 20 points 11 times, to just five field goals and continuously switching up to keep him from getting into a groove, despite the absence of Williams. “We tried to make it a little uncomfortable and not [let them] get used to one type of defense,” Burton said.