The road to a hellacious comeback was paved with an intentional foul.
Southampton, trailing by 17 entering the fourth quarter, came roaring back behind the ball-hawking defense of Michael Gilliam and the opportunistic scoring of Shaundell Fishburne to stun host Center Moriches, 71-67, Friday night in a key Suffolk League VII game.
"This is incredible!" said Gilliam, whose four-point play capped a rally from a 20-point third-quarter deficit. "I've never won a game at Center Moriches before."
Gilliam, patrolling the middle in the Mariners' desperate zone trap, made a steal near midcourt, soared in for a layup and drew an intentional foul with 1:54 left. He had missed his previous three free throws and was only 9-for-18 in scoring 17 points. "Coach said it was my time to hit the big shots," said Gilliam, who sank both. "It was an incredible play. I didn't even know I got the and-one until the ref told me it was an intentional foul."
Gilliam's free throws tied the score at 65. But Southampton (9-3) wasn't through. After Akyse Brown (17 points) hit one of two free throws to put the Red Devils (8-4) back on top, Fishburne scored on a fast-break layup after another Gilliam steal to give Southampton its first lead at 67-66 with 46 seconds left. "All coach wanted me to do was make steals," Gilliam said.
Fishburne, an impressive sophomore, scored 11 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, including two three-pointers during one stretch when Southampton hit three consecutive treys.
Adam Fezza made it 69-66 with 18 seconds left on a fast-break layup off another Center Moriches turnover. After Tim Rowland (17 points) made one of two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to bring the Red Devils within two, Fezza iced it with two free throws.
"We weren't playing defense and we weren't rebounding," Southampton coach Herm Lamison said in explaining his team's 61-44 deficit entering the fourth. "I told them to try and get it down to single digits with four minutes to play."