D.J. Gaston did everything he could to help Malverne return to the Long Island Class B championship game. But in the end, the Mules fell a little short against their conference rival.
Gaston scored 21 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including a game-tying 3-pointer with just under five minutes remaining, but Cold Spring Harbor kept Malverne in check the rest of the way for a 56-50 victory in the Nassau B title game last Saturday night at Farmingdale State College.
Despite scoring six of the game’s first eight points, the Mules trailed 15-9 after the first quarter. That deficit proved to be the difference as Malverne (18-2, 12-1 Conference B/D) played even with the Seahawks in each of the last three stanzas.
Trailing 27-21 at halftime, Gaston drilled 3-pointers from the top of the arc on the Mules’ first two possessions in the third quarter. But Cold Spring Harbor’s Thomas Milana, who finished with 14 points, answered each of those scores with 3’s of his own. Gaston hit two more 3-pointers later in the third, but the teams combined for just one more score over the final 3:49, a layup by Seahawk senior Jack Suter with 1:38 left that pushed Cold Spring Harbor’s lead to 41-35.
“[Malverne] did an amazing job to start the third quarter, hitting every shot,” Seahawks head coach Jason Mercurio head. “We just decided in the middle of the third quarter to make it a man game the rest of the way. We wanted to contest them on those 3-point shots because it was getting a little ridiculous.”
The teams split the first eight points of the fourth quarter before Jayden Seraphin’s two free throws with 6:12 left cut the deficit to four. Gaston hit another 3-pointer from the right corner with 5:30 left to draw within 45-44, but Cold Spring Harbor’s Aidan Adomities responded with an easy basket from the low post. That set up Gaston’s game-tying three from the right arc with 4:53 remaining.
“He was outstanding,” Malverne associate head coach Walter Aksionoff said.
Cold Spring Harbor (19-2, 12-1) appeared rattled and threw away an easy pass on its ensuing possession, but Malverne could not take advantage with a travel, turnover and double dribble on its next three trips. Meanwhile, the Seahawks put the game away with a 9-3 run.
“We came back to tie, but unfortunately, defensively, we can’t keep exchanging baskets,” Aksionoff said. “We had some stops, but we couldn’t get that initial rebound.”
Michael Warren had nine points and Seraphin added eight for the Mules. Adomities scored 14 of his team-leading 18 points in the first half.