For the Westhampton Beach boys basketball team, the offense was mostly absent in the first half of its Class A quarterfinal home game against Elwood/John Glenn on Friday night.
But the Hurricanes had reason to believe they were still in it, despite mustering only 14 points through two quarters of play. They couldn’t score, but they were still defending and, because of that, faced a manageable nine-point deficit at the break.
That defensive energy finally sparked the offense midway through the third quarter, and with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter, Westhampton Beach finally took a lead it would not relinquish, coming back from a double-digit deficit to tally a 54-52 win.
The Hurricanes, seeded second, were slated to host sixth seed Harborfields on Tuesday. The winner of that game will face the winner of top seed Amityville vs. fourth-seeded Kings Park for the county title on Friday, February 23, at Farmingdale State College at 7:30 p.m.
Westhampton Beach got back into the game on Friday night thanks to aggressive defense—which led to turnovers—and a strong presence on the glass.
Nigel Braithwaite Jr. sparked the team in the second half, finishing with 11 rebounds, as well as 10 points, for a double-double, while big man Nolan Quinlan finished with 10 rebounds, six coming in the offensive end, and also had a double-double, with 16 points. Point guard Jake Gaudiello led the team with 21 points and added three steals.
Glenn guard Josh Fenner led his team with 21 points, two nights after dropping 53 in a triple-overtime win over East Hampton in an outbracket game.
The Hurricanes were making their first playoff appearance in four years but were not simply happy to be there. After winning the League VI regular season title, they had high aspirations, and a first-round playoff exit would have left them far short of their goals.
After the game, the players acknowledged that but said they didn’t panic at the half.
“We played terrible and we were only down nine, so we knew we could do it,” Gaudiello said. “We knew we needed to come back and play like a different team in the second half.”
Braithwaite Jr. was a big part of that offensive spark late in the game, thanks to fast-break chances, stronger passing that created better looks, and a bit of good old-fashioned patience. “I got it together and took my time and let it come to me, and that’s when I started making my shots,” he said.
Head coach John Baumiller gave credit to his players for turning it around, saying that he regularly reminds them about defense being crucial for a win.
“Thank goodness they care about defense,” he said. “I always tell them, sometimes your offense goes in the tank, but our defense kept us in the game.”