Senior Jazier Whitely’s short jumper with 33 seconds remaining produced the 11th and final lead change as Sewanhaka put the finishing touches on the Nassau Conference A-II boys’ basketball title with a hard-fought 55-52 victory at Hewlett on Feb. 7.
The Indians, who clinched the top spot with two weeks to spare, went undefeated in conference play for the first time in program history and upped their winning streak to 12 in a row. Senior Jayden Boyd finished with a team-high 19 points and Whitely added 11. The pesky Bulldogs got a game-high 26 from senior Luca Preziosi, who barely missed a layup with less than 10 seconds remaining and a potential game-tying trey at the buzzer.
“It had the feel of a playoff game and I’m proud of how we found a way in a tough gym,” Sewanhaka head coach Jay Allen said. “Hewlett did a great job preparing for us and fought to the end without one of their best players. We shuffled a lot of kids in and out, and they all contributed.”
The Indians (16-1) had their depth on display in crunch time as six of them scored in the final six minutes after Hewlett (13-5) took a 46-43 lead on a three-pointer from junior Jason Barry to open the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs fell behind 51-47 but responded with another trey from Barry and a basket by Preziosi to lead again with 1:17 to go.
“I thought our guys played great,” Hewlett head coach Bill Dubin said. “They hustled under the boards, they hustled back on D, they moved the ball well on offense and shot the ball well.
“We overcame adversity in a lot of different areas and I think we’re going to do some damage down the road as we usually do,” he added.
Sewanhaka, which earned the No. 2 seed behind Garden City in the Class A tournament, didn’t allow any field goals for almost five minutes in between Barry’s two shots from behind the arc. The Indians got a pair of free throws from senior Rahim Akinwumni and important baskets from seniors Ricardo Jean, Kamaal Chin and Eric Armstrong to lead by four with 2:02 left.
“We picked it up when we needed to,” Allen said. “We have a senior-laden team and every kid has the mentality of doing their job when they’re on the floor. We’re deeper than most teams we’re going to play against.”
Hewlett, the No. 12 seed in Class A, passed the depth test with junior James Lawes and sophomores Darren Stevens (six points) and Brett Karkus logging major minutes due to the absence of one starter and senior Matt Mannino’s foul trouble. Mannino and Barry had eight points apiece.
“Hopefully we can rise to the occasion in the playoffs,” Dubin said.
Boyd, who had 15 points at halftime, scored the game’s final hoop on a breakaway layup with 7.2 seconds remaining.
“We’ve talked a lot about going undefeated in the conference and getting one of the top seeds in the playoffs,” Allen said. “It’s a big deal for us.”