Joe Gilio's shots wouldn't fall during warm-ups, but it had been that sort of stretch for Locust Valley.
A three-game skid had cost them the regular-season title. Then their starting guard went down with an injury, forcing Gilio to leave his spot on the bench for a starring role in the Nassau Class B semifinal against Oyster Bay.
But Locust Valley, like Gilio, managed to thrive in the spotlight. And when it counted, the shots fell and so did the Baymen.
Gilio had a game-high 18 points as his Falcons overcame an eight-point, third quarter deficit to defeat Oyster Bay, 45-42, at LIU Post Saturday afternoon. Gilio helped give second-seeded Locust Valley (13-4) the lead for good, scoring eight points in a game-deciding 12-0 run to end the third. No. 3 Oyster Bay ends the season at 8-10.
Locust Valley moves on to play No. 4 Cold Spring Harbor, 8:30 p.m. Saturday at LIU Post.
"I normally come off the bench to bring some energy to the defense," Gilio said, noting that he was a bit out of sync before his first start of the year. "I knew once I got in the game, the shots would start falling. Confidence, you gotta have confidence."
Even, he said, after the way the Falcons closed out the season; a once 10-1 Locust Valley saw its lead evaporate in Conference BC, finishing second. "We really did start to fall apart, but the playoffs are a different season," Gilio said.
One that couldn't come too soon, it seems. The Falcons won their next game -- a 10 point win over Oyster Bay -- before closing out the season with losses to Malverne, Friends Academy and East Rockaway.
"There was a lot of emotion," said Chris Appell, who finished with eight assists and six steals.
The player were still thinking about the late Peter Miller, who had coached most of them when they were on the St. Gertrude's Blue Waves, a travel squad. Miller passed away in 2009. "This wasn't just for us . . . [Coach Miller] said it was his dream for us to get to the county finals. We wanted to honor him."
That meant fighting back when Oyster Bay's Willie Trieber went on a personal 9-0 run that ended the second quarter and spanned two minutes into the third. Brad Conn's short jumper drew Locust Valley to within 22-18, but Trieber's steal on the next possession led to another layup (this one by Greg Nielsen). Joe Siringo's three from the left wing gave Oyster Bay the eight point lead.
After that, "we just stuck with it," said Locust Valley coach Tim Lomot. "We pressured up a little and never let up on the intensity."
Gilio's hit a three to draw Locust Valley to within 26-22; a minute later, his layup off a well-placed bounce pass from Alex Rawa tied the game at 26. Conn (seven points) hit another layup with 1:18 left in the third for the 28-26 lead.
Rawa finished with eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Siringo led Oyster Bay with 12.
"We just wanted to win," Rawa said. "I didn't care if it was ugly, I didn't care how many points I scored."
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