Manhasset falls in Class A finals
Manhasset did not bring its “A” game to the Nassau County A final, falling to South Side 57-46 on March 4 at Hofstra University’s Mack Sports Complex.
Of course, the second-seeded Cyclones might had something to do with the subpar performance. In a sense, they “cracked the code” in beating the top-seeded Indians, the defending state champs. Their 2-3 zone, mixed with tight man-on-man coverage, stymied Manhasset in a way that no other team had managed this year, holding the offensive juggernaut to its lowest point total of the season.
Manhasset (22-2), had averaged nearly 76 points per contest entering the tilt. For most of the game, the Indians were limited to one shot as South Side enjoyed the board advantage. On two occasions, Manhasset failed to make a field goal attempt within the 35-second limit as players could not find a clear path to the hoop.
Maybe South Side (23-1) got some insights from the Feb. 28 semifinal, when Wantagh also took the Indians out of their offensive rhythm and put a scare into the defending champs before Manhasset eventually pulled away late for a 50-37 win.
The Cyclones, who lost to Manhasset by 23 points in the semis last year, came in with a 22-game winning streak and flawlessly executed their game plan. They were unbeaten in Nassau Class A2 league play, as Manhasset was perfect in Class A3.
The key to victory, said coach Jerry D’Angelo, was that “we played hard and did some really good things on the defensive end. We also kept them off the boards, and in the fourth quarter we had a little better legs. It was a great team effort for us.”
There must have been a sense of déjà vu among Manhasset fans watching the well-oiled machine sputter in the first quarter, which ended with South Side on top 16-6. It was reminiscent of last year’s A final, when Garden City stormed out to a 16-0 lead and the hoop was averse to Indian shots. Of course, that contest had a happier ending, with Manhasset slowly climbing back to an eventual win.
The Indians rediscovered their mojo in the second quarter, going into the locker room down 23-22. And when offensive spark Liam Connor threaded the lane for two points with 4:03 left in the third to put Manhasset ahead 28-27, it represented the first lead since James Notias opened the contest with a jumper. It might have sparked hope in Manhasset hearts that the tide had turned. However, South Side did not fold, and their stingy defense helped craft a 37-30 advantage entering the final quarter.
A sense of dread began to descend on the Manhasset side as the fourth quarter unfolded. The Cyclones scored early twice on close-in buckets to open up a 41-30 lead. With Manhasset scores hard to come by, the gap seemed insurmountable.
Coach George Bruns called time to settle his team with 6:16 left. Connor subsequently scored to break a four minute-plus cold spell, but time was not on Manhasset’s side. The Indians soon had to resort to fouls, and South Side had the luxury of the bonus situation, sinking 12 of 16 attempts from the charity stripe down the stretch.
“How did they beat you?” Bruns was asked.
“I thought they were more physical than us,” he replied. “They shot the ball well early. We had some breakdowns on defense, and some [South Side players] scored that I thought should not have scored. It all added up.”
The Cyclones’ zone defense, the veteran coach noted, “spread us out. We did not attack it. Our kids sometimes get further from the basket, instead of working the ball a little longer and getting it into the gut.”
Connor led Manhasset with 15 points, followed by Notias (14), who sank one of only two 3-pointers on the Manhasset ledger, along with Liam Buckley, who finished with seven points.
“They’ve had a great year,” Bruns reflected, but added, “It’s an empty feeling. We’re all disappointed.”
Still, most of the roster had the rare privilege of winning a state title, a commonality that few teams can share.
Bruns knows all too well how difficult it is to make it to Glens Falls, where the state final four is contested.
“It’s a long road [to the state championship] and you can’t take anything for granted,” Bruns reflected.