Erasing a double-digit deficit in a road playoff game is never an easy task, but ninth-seeded Calhoun nearly pulled off a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback in the first round of the Nassau County Class AA boys playoff tournament at Freeport last Saturday.
Junior Brian Downey’s three-pointer with 2:21 remaining seemed to be an exclamation mark on a huge scoring push fueled mostly by defense. But before the Colts (12-6) could get comfortable playing with the lead, the Red Devils (12-6) answered with a three-pointer of their own and scored six of the game’s final seven points in a 50-46 victory.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games and only lost one,” Freeport coach Bob DeBonis said. “The fact that we’ve been there before and in a tough league [helped]. We grind games out.”
Though the three-point shot, normally a strength for Calhoun, failed to drop for much of the game — the Colts converted just four of their 25 attempts — the team looked at other avenues to chip away at Freeport’s lead, which grew as big as 10 points with just seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“The key was putting pressure on their guards and I think they had some tough looks that took them out of their comfort zone,” DeBonis said. “But they [made adjustments] and did do a great job of screening off the top of the zone [later].”
Defense and rebounding were at the top of the list of catalysts, with Downey involved in several of them. After ending the third quarter with a reverse layup at the buzzer, he scored the first bucket of the final stanza by putting back an offensive rebound, then had a steal that ultimately led to a foul and pair of free throws by senior Tommy Murphy. Downey forced another turnover and converted a layup himself before senior Tom Joannou forced a Red Devils’ turnover and fed a driving Murphy, who knifed through the lane and avoided a trio of defenders for a bucket that tied the game at 42-42.
“We’re very versatile so we can do a lot of different things,” Calhoun coach Jay Kreutzberger said. “What you saw was grit, determination and teamwork.”
Murphy led the Colts with 14 points, while senior Kyle McGinley had 13 and Downey added 11.
Freeport appeared to pull away for good in the third quarter after its top scorer, senior Kyhiem Chaplin, drained three-pointers on consecutive possessions from the same spot on the floor followed by a layup from senior Davelle Hooks that opened up a 40-30 bulge. Held under wraps by the Colts for much of the first half, Chaplin scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the third and fourth quarters.
“He’s done it all year long,” DeBonis said of Chaplin, who also added five rebounds, a pair of steals and five free throws. “He’s been a quality player for us, and as he goes we go. It was a big game, and he made big plays.”
“They hit their threes at a point where it mattered,” Kreutzberger said.