While the home crowd at Half Hollow Hills West went berserk and raucously celebrated what it thought was a tying buzzer-beater, the two officials huddled at midcourt. Was it a 3 or a 2? Did it come before or after the buzzer? Was it overtime or game over?
Deer Park guard Kyle Bradford was more certain of the final outcome than many around him. "I knocked the ball away from him and he was in front of the line when he got it back, so I knew it wasn't a three," Bradford said of Terry Harris' turnaround, straightaway banker in traffic. After a suspense-building conversation that lasted several minutes, referees Skip Yutzler and Mike Usera agreed with Bradford. Harris' shot counted, but only for two points and the Falcons defeated the Colts, 60-59, Tuesday night in a League IV thriller.
"We made a statement to everyone tonight. Deer Park is coming. We're not going anywhere," an excited Bradford said of the victory over two-time Long Island Class AA champion Hills West. The Falcons improved to 4-0 in league and 6-2 overall. The Colts are 3-1, 5-3.
Bradford scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter -- all on foul shots -- and scored the deciding points by nailing a pair of free throws with 13.4 seconds left and the crowd roaring but not distracting the junior lefty. "The crowd was ridiculous, but I just focused," Bradford said.
His shots made it 60-57 and Hills West got the ball to its star, Emile Blackman, who scored 21 points and had made three from beyond the arc. Blackman was short with his tying bid and Harris (14 points) wound up with the last shot.
"I had a hand in [Blackman's] face every time," said Falcons forward Sean Scott, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. "I love locking up the other team's best player and I love rotating out to block shots."
Deer Park trailed by as many as eight late in the third quarter and did not take its first lead until Bradford hit two free throws with 2:21 left to make it 53-52. Blackman scored from the baseline to give the Colts their last edge at 55-54.
Center Rome Jenkins scored on a putback and Bradford hit two free throws for a 58-55 Deer Park advantage, and the Falcons survived a frantic final minute. "Our motto is 'Deer Park Tough,' " Bradford said. "That's how we had to play to beat the best team in Suffolk in their house."