When Forest Hills dug Van Buren into a 10-point deficit at halftime and extended it to 12 in the second half, you thought it was over- it wasn't- Van chipped the deficit into single digits.
When Van Buren couldn't get shots to fall because of its disconnect with each other and the game, you thought it was over- it wasn't- Forest Hills was held to only one field goal in nearly six minutes of the second stanza while Van got in sync and went on a run. And, when Hills hit what seemed like a buzzer-beater to clinch, you thought it was over- it wasn't- the ref waved off the play.
Yet, when it was all said and done and the rim was rocked and rattled, Van Buren upended Forest Hills in overtime 59-54 in the playoffs at the Beacon M.S. 158 Back-to-School Basketball Tournament on Monday night in Queens, NY. The final game proved to be a true crowd-pleaser as manly emotions filled the gymnasium from players to parents, coaches to kids and referees to basketball junkies.
"I'm speechless," said Van Buren head coach Ron Dennis. "It's about desire because they were the borough champs and we were the guys that were left out. Nobody counted us, so with our kids, they want to get recruited so they want to go through everybody."
And, NYCHoops.net was there to catch all the action.
Though Van Buren and Forest Hills stayed within a two-point margin for much of the first half, Forest Hills began to pull away at the 5:08 mark after a three-pointer by Maurice Harkless. The jumper from the outer limit, pushed Hills up by five 19-14, the largest margin either team held in the 15 minutes previously played. And, in the next possession, Forest Hills' Nick Padgett (11 points) netted a basket for the squad, putting Hills up by eight points.
Van Buren tried to stay with it, but later found itself down by 10 points at halftime, 28-18.
In the second half, the Forest Hills lead was preserved and extended to 12 points, 30-18, with some contributions from Rudy Collins (11 points). Van Buren was able to answer twice in consecutive possessions, bringing the game within eight points. But, the next sequences weren't a good look for Van, as the players' multiple attempts to the rack were coming up with no finishes. ]
Forest Hills inflated its lead to 12 points twice by the 11-minute mark of the second stanza. It didn't seem like Van was going to be able to get itself together to bring back the same consistent offensive fluidity it once had early in the first phase.
Finally, Van Buren's Dominique Moore, en route to his game-high 17-point performance, went into a shooting contest with Forest Hills and knocked down a trey from deep to bring his squad within eight, 40-32. Van chipped the deficit down further to seven at the 9:26 mark of the second half. Forest Hills answered with a ball reversal, but Van went on a defensive and offensive grinding and brought the game within five points, 48-43.
By the 2:25 mark, Forest Hills had successfully executed only one field goal in six minutes of game play.
Lagging by eight in the last 1:25, Moore drew the foul and drained both opportunities at the charity stripe, bringing Van Buren within six points. With the help of Van Buren's Malcolm McGilvery (16 points) and Moore, with 39.4 seconds remaining, the team was able to creep within two points of Forest Hills, 51-49.
However, Van fouled Padgett with 32.8 seconds on the clock. Padgett missed the first and Dennis called a timeout to ice the shooter. But, Padgett sank the second free throw opportunity and inched Hills to a 52-49 advantage.
Van Buren stayed realistic and didn't settle for the outside shot. Instead, the team kept driving to the inside for some scoring opportunities. McGilvery became the man of the last 10 seconds as he scored on tough baskets and nailed free throws on back-to-back possessions. Ultimately, he tied the game at 52 with 8.3 on the clock.
Moments later, in the final 2.6 seconds, a player from off the Forest Hills bench threw up a prayer to the basket from halfcourt and it took a drink from the bottom of the well. The Hills players bum-rushed the court in victory, but an official waved-off the shot and sent the game into overtime.
In the make-or-break final two minutes, Van Buren's McGilvery and teammate Orlando Johnson (eight points) continued to work overtime vehemently attacking the glass. After bringing his team up by two, 55-53, with 52.6 seconds left in the post-regulation period, McGilvery stole the ball from his opponent and hit off Johnson for the classic finish to the cylinder.
Up by four points, Van fouled Harkless with 22.3 seconds remaining. Harkless connected on only one-of-two of his free throw opportunities, while two more trips to the charity stripe for McGilvery down the stretch preserved the win for Van Buren at 59-54.
"Malcolm's a great kid, a lot of high energy and a lot of effort," said Dennis. "He's a consummate team player!"
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