For the second Saturday in a row, Jaylen Brown from downtown provided the difference for Baldwin.
Brown’s three-pointer from the corner with 56.5 seconds remaining broke the last of six deadlocks and put the top-seeded Bruins ahead for good in a hard-fought 45-39 victory over No. 3 Port Washington in the Nassau Class AA boys’ basketball championship game before an electric crowd of more than 3,500 at Hofstra University’s Mack Sports Complex.
“I’ve been able to handle pressure well,” said Brown, a senior forward who a week earlier hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to lift Baldwin over Hempstead in the semifinals, 57-54. “It has a lot to do with confidence,” he added. “We all have confidence in each other.”
It’s the third straight county title for the Bruins (21-2), who will aim to defend their Long Island crown next Saturday against Brentwood at Stony Brook University at 4:30 p.m. Senior Dylan Madden had a game-high 14 points, sophomore Chase Timberlake added 11, and Brown eight.
“Jaylen is one of the best shooters on Long Island in my opinion,” Baldwin head coach Darius Burton said of Brown, who hit three late free throws as well. “Anytime he lets it go, I feel it’s going in. He was the second option on that play and was exactly where he was supposed to be and knocked it down.”
Also for the second week in a row, the Bruins were clutch from the foul line. They matched their semifinal performance from the charity stripe, going 12-for-16. The Vikings, who were led by Camren Welker’s 12 points, made only 7 of 16 free throws.
“We’re constantly practicing free throws,” said Madden, who went 6-for-6 from the line. “We know how important it is. That’s how we start and end practices, shooting free throws. It paid off because we probably wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
Baldwin, which returned only three players from last season, has captured six of the last 11 county titles. It beat Port Washington twice during the regular season in similar games that came down to the wire.
“I don’t know how many times I talked this week about beating a team three times,” Burton said. “Port Washington is a very good offensive team and we always pride ourselves on defense. This was just a battle from start to finish and a great atmosphere.”
Senior point guard Camren Welker had 12 points, Trevor Amalfitano added nine and Ryan Shanahan added seven for the Vikings (17-6), who last won a county title in 1947. Port led 11-8 after the first quarter, trailed 19-16 at halftime, then rallied for a 26-24 lead after three quarters of the see-saw affair.
The Vikings scored the first five points of the second half to vault in front, 21-19. Madden’s three-pointer put Baldwin back in the lead before Amalfitano’s three-point play and Welker’s driving layup provided Port with its largest lead of the night at 26-22.
Senior Joshua Petion (seven points) closed the first half with a basket and opened the second half with a free throw to cut the margin to 26-25. The Bruins then scored 10 of the next 14, highlighted by drives to the rim by sophomore Jalen Waters and Timberlake, and it was 35-30 with 2:48 left.
The lead vanished in just over a minute thanks to a Welker layup and Kenny Daly’s tying trey, setting the stage for Brown’s heroics.
“We have a legacy going,” Brown said.