The Butler did it.
Floral Park’s Jordan Butler, that is. He scored 24 points, including a 15-for-19 performance from the foul line, to lead the seventh-seeded Knights to a 74-62 upset victory at No. 2 South Side in a Nassau County Class A boys’ basketball quarterfinal playoff game on Feb. 18.
Butler’s biggest shot came from behind the arc with about six minutes remaining in the fourth, after the Cyclones made a furious rally from 19 down to get within 50-49. The hosts missed a couple of free throws that would’ve given them their first lead of the night, then Butler stuck a trey that ignited an eight-point run that sealed the outcome. Kevin Cluess had 22 points, and Taize Walker added 14 for Floral Park, which advanced to meet No. 6 Hewlett in the semifinals.
“It’s not the way we envisioned it,” South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo said. “They played well, and we had a poor start. It was a weird game for us. We were in a lot of foul trouble.”
South Side (16-3), which attempted 16 free throws — only one in the first half — compared to Floral Park’s 29, had All-County senior Paul Pandolfi foul out and closed the game with three players with four fouls apiece. The undefeated Conference A-I champs were led by All-County sophomore Alex Sorensen’s 19 points and senior Keith Ruiz’s 14.
Ruiz was instrumental in helping the Cyclones rally from a 44-25 deficit midway through the third quarter. He scored 10 points in a 17-6 spurt that trimmed the margin to 50-49. South Side scored the first seven points of the fourth, but never got over the hump. “For that four-minute span, everything fell our way,” D’Angelo said. “We spent so much energy trying to come back, when they responded and got the lead back up to nine it was just too much to re-rally.”
South Side had to work hard to get out of the first round on Feb. 15. It pulled away from No. 15 North Shore, 69-55, with a 41-point second half. The Vikings scored the first eight points of the game, but the Cyclones responded with the next nine and saw their depth make a difference in the second half. Seven players contributed at least five points, led by Sorensen’s game-high 22. Senior Pace Shaw (11) and Pandolfi (10) also scored in double figures.
“We had a special group of kids,” D’Angelo said.