|Blind Brook 52, Millbrook 45 OT|
Millbrook's season came to an end in the opening round of the state Class C tournament at Iona College in New Rochelle.
Millbrook finished 18-5. Blind Brook is 18-6.
Player Name Pts 2FG 3FG FT
Bennett, Michael 23 3 3 8
Bucci, Joe 6 3
Gross, Steve 7 1 1 2
Levine, Ben 3 1
Stockel, Chris 11 2 2 1
Wethington, Tom 2 1
Team Totals 52 10 7 11
Greg DePaoli addressed the subject at halftime, though most of his players must have thought he was crazy.
His team held a commanding lead. Yet the Blind Brook coach discussed the possibility of a Millbrook comeback anyway.
The Trojans had spent most of the first half on fire, which led DePaoli to tell them that if Millbrook came back, it would be the biggest flop in history.
"I almost had to eat my words," DePaoli said.
His team's steely nerves didn't let him.
Despite allowing their 19-point lead to evaporate by the end of regulation, Blind Brook scored 11 points in overtime of its 52-45 win over Millbrook of Section 9 in a Class C state regional semifinal last night at Iona College's Mulcahy Center.
Mike Bennett had six points in overtime, all on free throws, and Steve Gross scored five.
The Trojans (18-6) advanced to face Friends Academy (Section 8) in the regional final Saturday at Pace University at a time to be determined.
Despite how distressing the situation became, when Millbrook started making every shot and Blind Brook couldn't get the ball upcourt against the Blazers, the team remained calm.
"We've been in these close games all year," Gross said. "We're used to this kind of pressure."
The first half unfolded perfectly for Blind Brook, which defeated Valhalla in the sectional final on March 1. The shots from the outside were going in, which meant the Trojans kept shooting them.
Bennett went 3 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half and had 13 points. His team went 13 for 25 from the field, and the Trojans cruised to a 33-14 halftime lead.
The third quarter was a different story.
Tom Wethington hit a jumper from the lane three minutes into the third, but that was all of the offense for Blind Brook in the quarter.
The fourth quarter was just as excruciating. The Trojans scored just six points, unable to break free from the clutches of the Blazers' press.
Blind Brook went eight straight possessions without a field-goal attempt during one late stretch.
"We were down 14 points, so I figured what the heck, let's make it interesting," Millbrook coach Adam Peek said. "So we pressed, and they started turning it over."
Chris Stockel (11 points) missed a long-range 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and it went to overtime. Millbrook, despite its best efforts, was not able to take the lead, and Blind Brook had weathered the storm.
"I told them, 'We took their best stuff, and we're still here,' " DePaoli said. "We kept believing. Nobody gave up, nobody pointed fingers."
Gross hit a 3-pointer 1:20 into the period, and his team never relinquished the lead. Bennett hit two free throws a minute later, then Gross canned two more to make the score 48-46 with 32 seconds remaining.
With 17 seconds left, Bennett stepped to the line with a three-point lead and a chance to seal the win.
"I was thinking back to all those foul shots we shoot in practice," said Bennett, who had 23 points. "It was like that, except with a little extra noise."
He hit those, made two more with nine seconds left, and Blind Brook had its win.
"It's a tournament, so all you need to do is win," DePaoli said. "We'll worry about how we did it tomorrow."