By Bill Landon
For the first time in 20 games, the Harborfields’ boys’ basketball team met its match.
With the Class A champion Harborfields ahead 56-55 with 5.2 seconds left in regulation, the Class AA champion Half Hollow Hills West, went to the free-throw line and swished both opportunities to capture the overall Suffolk County championship title, 57-56, at Stony Brook’ University’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena Friday night.
“It’s been all year that our guys don’t stop fighting and they have a way of just staying in the game, even against a team like Half Hollow Hills West,” Harborfields head coach John Tampori said. “We were able to stay right with them.”
It was a push-and-shove game from the opening tipoff, and neither team was able to break the game open. After Harborfields senior guard Robert Pecorelli launched a deep shot that hit the basket at the buzzer, the game was tied 18-18 at the end of the first eight minutes.
Harborfields senior guard Malcolm Wynter swished his second 3-pointer to open the second quarter, which retied the game at 21-21.
Hills West turned up the heat and edged ahead with a buzzer-beater of its own to end the half up 32-24.
Harborfields’ 3-point game caught fire in the third period when Pecorelli banked his fourth trifecta of the game, Wynter drained his third and senior guard Danny Morgan netted his second, as the momentum began to shift.
On Hills West’s next possession, Morgan snatched the inbounds pass, and bolted through the paint for a layup that again tied the game, this time, at 41-41 with less than two minutes left in the period.
Trailing by a point in the fourth, Harborfields senior forward Nick Mitchell got the call off an inside pass, did a spin move in the paint and found the rim to put his team back in front, 50-49, with 5:19 left in regulation. Hills West countered though, to retake a one-point lead.
Wynter’s lightning-fast defensive play matched his high-scoring offense, as the senior sensed where the Hills West’s no-look passes were going. On a seemingly simple inbounds pass, Wynter flashed in front for the steal and went to the rim for the score to retake the lead for his team.
Hills West retaliated with two consecutive scores to take a 55-52 lead with just over a minute left, but Mitchell went to the stripe shooting two and split his appearance to make it a two-point game. Wynter struck again with a monster 3-pointer, his fourth of the night, to retake the lead by one with 58 seconds left in regulation.
Trailing by one with 5.2 seconds left, Hills West senior Richard Altenord went to the charity stripe shooting two. The senior calmly sank both for a one-point advantage as Harborfields called time out.
“Hills West — they’re real good,” Tampori said. “Anyone who beats Brentwood and Northport is really good.”
With time for one final offensive possession, Harborfields did what it has done all season, and put the ball in Wynter’s hands. The senior raced to the top of the key in a desperate attempt to find the net, but the buzzer sounded before the point guard could get the shot off.
“We got a little unlucky,” Tampori said. “They had the last possession and they got a foul called and that was the difference in the game.”
Wynter lead his team in scoring with 20 points, Pecorelli put up 12 and Morgan added 10.
Harborfields sets its sights higher when the Tornadoes travel to Long Island University Post for the Long Island Championship on March 6, where they’ll face Elmont for a second time this season. The Tornadoes defeated the Nassau champions 61-60 on Jan. 16 in a nonleague matchup. Tipoff for the championship game on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m.