Elmont defeats South Side for crown


Doubling up South Side in the first half of Saturday’s Nassau Class AA boys’ basketball championship game proved crucial for Elmont, which went the entire third quarter without a field goal and clung to a three-point lead heading into the fourth.

The fifth-seeded Spartans remained stone cold from the floor early in the final quarter but had ice in their veins from the foul line and shutdown defense, propelling them to a 51-34 victory at Farmingdale State College for their first county title in four seasons.

Senior Cassius Moore had a game-high 16 points and junior Nassir Edwards added 10 as Elmont (20-4) avenged a loss in last year’s semifinals to the Cyclones, who went on to capture the Nassau and Long Island Class A crowns. Sophomore John Pericolosi paced No. 2 South Side (20-4) with 10 points.

“It feels great to bring the title back to Elmont,” said Moore, who finally broke the Spartans’ field-goal drought in the second half with 3:43 remaining in the game with a three-pointer for a 43-31 lead. “Two years ago we were 5-14 and last year South Side sent us home in the semifinals,” he added. “We definitely had a fire under us to go all the way.”

Elmont, which scored the game’s first 10 points and built a 32-16 halftime cushion, will take on Half Hollow Hills East in the Long Island Class AA championship game next Saturday at 3 p.m. at Farmingdale State.

“It was so important that we stayed together when South Side made its run,” Elmont head coach Ryan Straub said. “We knew it was coming. You’re not going to run a great and well-coached team like that out of the gym. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this season and I knew we were going to tough this one out and find a way.”

Senior Kymani Dias drained a pair of treys in the first half, while senior Osagie Ekhator and junior Ebubenna Nwabudu chipped in four points apiece while holding their own in the paint against a sizeable opponent.

“They have four guys who are 6-foot-5 and that concerned us,” Straub said of South Side’s Ryan Kennedy, Patrick Mullin, Ryan Schmitt and Francis Sweeney. “I thought we did as good a job as we possibly could down low.”

The Cyclones outscored the Spartans 15-2 in the third quarter and a game that had the markings of a blowout was suddenly up for grabs.

Elmont responded, however, scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to lead by a dozen. Moore went 4-for-4 from the foul line and Edwards 2-for-2.

“Elmont is a dynamite team and put us in a hole early,” South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo said. “I give our guys a lot of credit. They fought so hard to get within three after being down 16. We just couldn’t sustain our run in the fourth quarter.”

Edwards capped the victory with an electric dunk in the closing seconds.

“I thought we kept our heads up and stuck to the game plan,” Edwards said. “We’ve come a long way in two years and this was our goal ever since last season’s semifinal loss.”