Maybe playing on the road isn’t such a bad thing for the Roslyn Bulldogs. Last Friday, the 11th seed Bulldogs won their second straight heart-stopping Conference A playoff game, stunning number three-seeded Roosevelt, 62-61 to advance to the conference semifinals.
This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Roslyn will play Valley Stream South at the Hofstra University gymnasium. The winner goes to the Conference A finals.
How Roslyn got this far has been pretty amazing. Playing Roosevelt’s own gym, the Bulldogs fell behind to the Rough Riders, 16-7 at the end of the first quarter. That might have been enough to take the life out of lesser teams, but Craig Murphy’s charges came back with a solid second quarter, outscoring Roosevelt, 19-16 to trail at halftime by six points. The third quarter was inconclusive as both teams scored 13 points each. But as they did in their opening round win over Friends Academy, Roslyn battled back in the fourth quarter to win the game.
The key shots were two free throws by Keandre Augustine to give Roslyn the lead with only seconds remaining. Augustine, who generally heats up in the second half, led the Bulldogs with 22 points, including three three-pointers. He was backed up by Roslyn’s reliable seniors, Noah Nardone, who had 17 points and nine rebounds and Thomas Davis, who scored 11 points. Both Nardone and Davis each had two three-point goals.
Trailing by six points, the Bulldogs managed to get within a single basket as time was winding down. After a timeout, guard Chris Duplessis made a key steal, setting the stage for a final shot by Roslyn. Another timeout was called and Murphy called Augustine’s number. The guard, who has been the leading scorer for Roslyn all year, drove to the hoop, where he was fouled. There, Augustine coolly sank both free throws, giving Roslyn a one-point lead with nine seconds left. Roosevelt had time for a final shot, but once again, the Roslyn defense came through, forcing yet another turnover and securing another outstanding win.
Murphy was full of praise for his team, especially Thomas Davis, who held Roosevelt’s leading scorer to only 12 points, while scoring 11 points himself.
“It was a great game for us to come from behind on the road against such a talented team,” Murphy told The Roslyn News. “We showed our mental toughness.”
Early in the first quarter, that toughness was being tested severely as Roslyn was down by as much as 13 points. How did the Bulldogs manage to come back?
“We just stuck with our game plan,” Murphy said. “We just keep focusing on what we practiced on. We knew if we did we’d get back in the game.”
The 11th seed may seem strange for a team that had a winning record and came in third in Conference A-III play. But Murphy doesn’t have any complaints.
“We played in a great conference, one that doesn’t reward teams seeding-wise,” he said. “When you finish third in a very good conference, the best you can hope for is the 11th seed.” \
Murphy also noted that the number one seed, South Side High School, was eliminated in an early round, proving that anything is possible in playoff action.
As he was with the win over Roosevelt, Murphy was full of praise for his players on the thrilling 54-52 first round win over Friends.
“It was a great win,” he said. “They were a very athletic team. We had a tough time getting points. Our press generated turnovers and that gave us easier looks.”
Valley Stream South is the defending county champions. And so, the game presents another occasion for heroics by the Roslyn squad. Hopefully, the Saturday night contest will bring a large contingent of Roslyn fans to Hofstra as the Bulldogs continue to bring glory to the school’s basketball tradition.