|March is the month for Madness, and Friends Academy was Cinderella. Friends claimed its first Class C Long Island championship on Wednesday 11 days after its first Nassau title.|
The script was one quarter away from a fairy-tale ending at the Class C Southeast Regional final yesterday, but Michael Bennett and Section I champ Blind Brook had other plans. Bennett scored more than half of his team's points (27) as Blind Brook outlasted Friends, 46-44, in overtime at Pace.
"We knew he was their best player," Friends coach Steve Hefele said of Bennett, a 6-2 guard. "We stuck to man-to-man and tried to help out."
Bennett was unstoppable. After Blind Brook (19-6) tied it at 39 with a 14-4 fourth quarter, Bennett scored five of his team's seven points in overtime, including hitting two free throws with 26 seconds left to give Blind Brook a 46-44 lead.
Friends (13-8) sent the ball to Nate Lape in the post on its next possession, but he missed from underneath the basket and Blind Brook knocked the ball out of bounds with six seconds left.
Then Bennett intercepted Eric Vidal's in-bound pass, ending Friends' playoff run.
"You always want to win, but I'm proud of what we accomplished," Hefele said.
Friends led 35-25 after three quarters, seemingly on its way to victory before Blind Brook applied a fullcourt press.
"We panicked a lot," 6-3 junior forward Rob Abney said. "We were forcing passes and there was a lot of chaos."
Lape, who scored 24 points in Wednesday's 59-48 victory over Mattituck, was held to two.
CLASS C SOUTHEAST REGIONAL FINAL
At Pace University
Friends Academy 7141445- 44
Blind Brook (Section I) 9511147- 46
FA: Ryan 1-0-3, Abney 5-0-13, Kucich 3-0-6, Lape 1-0-2, Vidal 4-0-10, Cox 2-1-5, Alessi 2-0-5. Totals: 18-1-44. BB: Bennett 6-12-27, Gross 2-0-4, Stockel 2-4-8, Bucci 2-0-4, Worthington 1-1-3. Totals: 13-17-46. Three-pointers: FA 7 (Abney 3, Vidal 2, Ryan, Alessi); BB 3 (Bennett 3).
BLIND BROOK 46
FRIENDS ACAD. 44