Defense sparks Baldwin to fourth straight title

Bruins avenge two losses to Port Washington


It’s difficult to beat a quality opponent three times in a season, in any sport at any level.

And when it comes to Nassau County high school boys’ basketball, accomplishing that feat against the best program over the past two decades — with 400 wins and nine championships — is that much tougher.

A stifling defense, clutch offense from junior Chase Timberlake and the steady hands of freshman point guard Peyton Howell allowed Baldwin to avenge a pair of regular-season defeats to Port Washington and capture its fourth straight county title, 46-26, in the Class AAA final Saturday evening before a crowd of more than 3,000 at Farmingdale State College.

“We’re a young team that grew up today and I’m so proud of this group,” Bruins head coach Darius Burton said. “I threw a lot at them this week in practice and they were like sponges. Watched a ton of film and switched the defense to make Port as uncomfortable as possible. To hold them to 26 points takes an unbelievable team effort.”  

Timberlake (16) and Howell (12) combined for more points than the Vikings, who were seeking their first county championship since the 1946-47 campaign. Port’s leading scorer, senior Trevor Amalfitano, was held to just 5 points — 17 below his average — and fouled out early in the fourth quarter. Junior John Spinoso was its top scorer on the night with 6 points.

Baldwin will face undefeated Bay Shore for the Long Island Class AAA title next Saturday at 5 p.m. at Farmingdale State.

“We’re feeling great,” said Timberlake, who went from Baldwin’s sixth man a year ago to its leading scorer (16.5 ppg) this winter. “Honestly we felt right from the first few minutes this was going to be different than the other two games,” he added.

The top-seeded Vikings defeated the Bruins 59-46 at home Jan. 17 and went on the road three weeks later and won the rematch, 52-42. A common recipe to those victories was a quick start, something Port Washington was unable to replicate with the county hardware on the line.

“We definitely emphasized a better start,” Burton said. “We might not have scored as much as we wanted, but our tradition is defense and we didn’t let them get in sync all night. Everyone we had on the floor played strong defense.”

In a rematch of last season’s Class AA final, the second-seeded Bruins scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed. They led 11-6 after the first quarter and 16-10 at halftime after the teams combined for nine points in the second.

The Vikings scored as many points in the third quarter as they did in the first half, but only cut the deficit by one as Amalfitano and Spinoso both picked up their fourth personal fouls. Amalfitano fouled out with 5:26 remaining in regulation and Spinoso followed with 2:46 left.

“Amalfitano is a two-time Conference Player of the Year and forcing him to foul out was big,” Burton said. “He’s a tremendous player. We did an excellent job of making him work at both ends of the floor.”

Timberlake and Howell scored nine points apiece in the fourth as senior Chauncey Saint Jean and sophomores Gabe Phillips and Dylan Cudjoe dominated the boards.

“I told our guys all week, ‘Port won the conference and there’s nothing we can do about it except stop them from winning the county,’” Burton said.