Seventh seed Manhasset took on the 11th seed Roslyn Bulldogs in the Nassau County boys basketball playoffs as Indians looked to defend their title. Despite losing all five starters from last years team, head coach George Brun’s team was 14-5 overall and 10-2 in conference play this year.
After the visiting Bulldogs came out to a 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, the game started to open up going into the second quarter.
“We like to push the ball up the floor, but it’s a fine line,” Bruns said. “We come running down and then realize you don’t have a shot, a good one and then pull the ball back out and execute your offense. They set the tone of the game by pushing the ball all the time, not that we can’t play like that.”
With two minutes before the half, Manhasset swingman Rory Connor hit a three to tie the game at 17, one eight threes the Indians made in the game. Right before the half, Manhasset center James Morris hit a baseline jumper that would give his team the lead at 21-20 going into the locker room.
The Indians came out and made the third quarter their own after point guard Connor Dunphy took a charge on a Roslyn fast break opportunity. Quickly after that, freshman power forward Liam Connor hit a wide-open three after some good ball movement to put the Indians up 32-25. Liam would end up with 10 points on the night, replacing star junior Ahmed Crowell in the starting lineup, who was not available to play for undisclosed reasons.
A little later on in the third, wingman Joe Busch was found wide-open by Dunphy in transition and Busch made a dagger three to give Manhasset all the momentum. Bush would lead his team with 12 points in the game.
Needing a boost, Roslyn head coach Craig Murphy started to press Manhasset, deploying a full court 2-2-1 zone.
“We were having a little trouble scoring and we needed to increase the tempo a little bit and force them to try and do somethings out of what they wanted,” Murphy said.
The press was working for the bulldogs, scoring off of turnovers and forcing Manhasset to take unneeded timeouts. However, the pressing also led to some fouls that put Manhasset in the bonus early on.
“We were looking to get the ball in the middle against the press,” Zaffiro, who ended up with 11 points on the day, said. “We handled a lot of press this year, playing Elmont and Sewanaka. We usually handle it pretty well and I think we did a great job getting the ball up the court.”
Going into the fourth quarter, Manhasset was up 39-32, but Roslyn started their come back. The bulldogs were led by shooting guard Spyro Drennis, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter and lead all scorers with 18 points.
With less than a minute remaining, Roslyn intentionally fouled Manhasset, but the Indians would miss both free throws. The Bulldogs took advantage and cut into the lead by hitting a layup on the other end, making it 49-47 Manhasset with 24.1 seconds left after the Indians called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Manhasset inbounded the ball to Dunphy who was immediately double teamed by Roslyn and was forced to call another timeout after only taking 3 seconds off the clock.
“We have a methodology and sometimes we get away from it,” Bruns said about the Roslyn full court press. “Spacing, where to be in that kind of press, who’s coming to the middle. You just try and calm them down, help them gather themselves and get control of their emotions.”
Following the timeout, Busch received the inbounds pass and was intentionally fouled. While Busch lined up to take the first free throw, teammate Liam Connor, standing at half-court, could not bare to watch and stared at the opposite basket. Busch would hit the first free throw, and also the second, putting the Indians up 51-47 with only second remaining. Roslyn would hit another layup, but the game was in-hand for the Indians, winning 52-49.
“[Roslyn] played great in transition so we were forced to play really fast and they pushed the ball a lot, but we do too and that’s one of the things that helps us win games and make a lot of buckets,” Busch said.
Manhasset will take on Hewlett at home on Saturday, Feb. 22 after they upset the No. 2 seed Long Beach. For Roslyn, this is the second year in a row where there season will end in Manhasset’s gym.
“A team that is unwilling to give up, does not stop playing hard and unfortunately, they were not rewarded for how much they stick together,” Murphy said about his team. “It’s tough to be in this gym two years in a row and to lose by the proximity of points that we did two years in a row.”