FARMINGDALE, NY - Brentwood and Deer Park meeting in the Suffolk "AA" playoffs has become a common occurrence recently, with the Falcons knocking off the Indians in the quarterfinals 2 years ago, and in the semifinals last year.
On Tuesday, the two met for the title at Farmingdale State College, and with everything on the line, senior forward Femi Olujobi came up with his best game of the season, pouring in 19 points, along with grabbing 13 rebounds, en route to finally leading Brentwood past Deer Park, this time for the Section 11 title, 68-59.
"Losing to them the past two years in the playoffs has been in the back of our minds, but we used it as motivation," Brentwood sophomore guard Mike Almonacy said.
It has been a sore spot for the Indians bringing up the memories of their games against Deer Park. Last year's 76-63 loss to the Falcons was especially hard because they were up 5 going to the 4th. Almonacy went so far to say they got gypped in the defeat. Only Olujobi was on the team from the game two years ago, and he said that was equally heartbreaking, while Almonacy said that they were determined to not feel that kind of heartbreak again.
"We wanted to win for us, but we really wanted to win for the seniors," Almonacy said. "They wanted it a little more because this was it for them, so we used their determination to make us want it even more."
It was a tight nip and tuck battle in the early going, with neither team able to break away and take a sizable lead, and on Deer Park's end, it was primarily the play of senior guard Karon Blackwell who kept them in the game.
With Brentwood clearly focusing its defense on stopping Deer Park's senior Wagner bound guard Aaren Edmead, doubling him at times while also making him fight to get the ball back when he got rid of it, it was Blackwell who was seemingly left free to get into creases in the lane and score. While Almonacy and Olujobi had solid first halves for Brentwood, Blackwell had 22 in the opening 16 minutes to give the Falcons a 34-33 lead at the break, and at halftime, Almonacy said that they were maybe overplaying Edmead, and that they needed to show more attention to Blackwell to succeed.
"We focused on Aaren a lot in the first half, maybe too much," Almonacy said. "Karon was able to score on backdoors and getting to the basket, but we made it a priority in the 2nd half to stop him, and we did."
They did do a solid job, limiting Blackwell to just 4 second half points, and Olujobi was able to thrive in the paint, using an array of post moves to score inside helping Brentwood grab a seven point lead in the 3rd,, but Edmead was able to find the hoop on 3 occasions late to tie the game at 42 heading to the final 8 minutes.
Edmead scored 11 straight at one point for Deer Park, and it was anyone's ball game with 2:22 to go, with Brentwood calling a timeout holding on to a slim one point lead at 60-59. At that point, Indians coach Anthony Jimenez said he reminded his group of the one thing he focused in with his team all year.
"I said dig in defensively, and make sure that we don't give up anything clean on the backboard," Jimenez said. "Stay calm and we can do this."
He added that he changed up the defense, sliding into a 3-2 zone with Olujobi being the key man in it, as it was his job to give Edmead problems, something the Oakland bound big man knew was important to help get the win.
"In the zone I am at the top so I can get a hand out on Aaren so that he has to shoot over me which hopefully would make it more challenging for him," Olujobi said.
That's exactly what happened as in the final two minutes, Deer Park didn't score as they could seem to get anything to fall. The zone definitely was effective, but at the same time, Deer Park coach John McCaffrey felt that his team had chances to do something, and just couldn't get it done.
"I'll be honest with you, in the locker room I told the kids I felt we got every shot we wanted in the last 2 minutes but we just didn't make them," McCaffrey said.
They missed and that started the foul game. First it was Brentwood junior guard Ali Mableton who went to the line after being fouled, and he made his pair. Edmead then missed a three, and Olujobi was fouled and made a pair. They a bad inbounds pass led to an Almonacy steal, and he nailed his pair. Forward Jamel Allen closed it out with another set of FT's, and while Deer Park was 0 of 6 from the field in the last two minutes, Brentwood was 8 for 8 from the charity stripe to close it out and celebrate as they were able to finally get over the hump and take down Deer Park to win the Suffolk Class "AA" championship, 68-59.
Olujobi led the way for Brentwood with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Almonacy added 15, and Allen had 12.
Blackwell had a game high 26 in the defeat for Deer Park, while Edmead closed out his H.S. career with 25.
It may have been a rough way to end for the Deer Park seniors, but McCaffrey said that this group has nothing to be ashamed of.
"I said it's just one cloud the sun. They are the apart of the 4 greatest years in the history of Deer Park basketball, and that's what I hope they are remembered by," McCaffrey said after the loss.
The win means that Brentwood will move on and represent Suffolk County in the Long Island Class "AA" Championship to be played March 8th at Hofstra against the Nassau "AA" winner, and while Jimenez said that it's still one game at a time for his Indians, Olujobi, while thrilled to have this win finally, feel this team can do big things in the weeks ahead.
"Winning this game means so much, and to do it against Deer Park makes it even that much sweeter," Olujobi said with a smile. "Now we want to make a run at states and bring home some more hardware, that's the goal."
Amityville H.S., which had just taken the Suffolk Class "A" championship, defeating John Glenn 74-73 in OT this past Saturday, was disqualified on Monday, and forced to forfeit their title for playing what was deemed an "ineligible player". Because of the decision Amityville's season is now over, and John Glenn, the Section 11 runners up, are now considered the Suffolk County Class "A" champions, and will play the Nassau County Class "A" champions on March 8th for the right to play for the State Championship in Glens Falls. There is a lot more to the story, and NYCHoops.net has uncovered the reason behind the Warriors disqualification, and just what exactly happened.