A pair of defensive stops over the final 15 seconds of regulation allowed third-seeded Elmont to escape with a 46-43 home victory over No. 14 Calhoun Friday evening in a Nassau Class A boys’ basketball playoff matchup.
Clinging to a one-point lead in the waning seconds, the Spartans forced two turnovers before junior Cassius Moore sank a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining for the final margin. The Colts, who overcame a 9-point deficit late in the third quarter to grab the lead in the fourth, had a desperation heave fall short at the buzzer.
“Calhoun played hard and tough and is a lot better than a 14-seed,” Elmont head coach Ryan Straub said. “We created plenty of good looks but didn’t get many shots to fall. At the end of the day, we’re happy to be moving on.”
Moore (13 points), senior Joshua Phifer (12) and junior Gemere Frias-Walsh (11) all scored in double figures to lead the Spartans (15-6), who advance to face district rival Sewanhaka, the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at noon. Elmont defeated the Indians twice during the regular season by a combined 47 points. “We know how tough it is to beat a team three times,” Straub said.
Seniors Sean DiPaola (game-high 16 points), PJ Kakalos (13) and Matt Kalfas (11) reached double digits for the Colts (12-10), who knocked off Long Beach in an outbracket playoff game two days earlier.
“It’s a difficult loss,” Calhoun head coach Jay Kreutzberger said. “The guys competed at an extraordinary high level and demonstrated a mental toughness that you need on the road in the playoffs.
“Points were hard to come by and we battled back a couple of times,” he added. “We made it a point to drive strong to the rim on those last two possessions and came up just a little short.”
A back-and-forth first half featured seven lead changes and concluded with Elmont clinging to a 25-24 lead. Calhoun was 1-for-7 from the foul line in the first half and finished 2-for-10. The Spartans were slightly better and had nearly double the trips, going 11-for-19.
“They’re free but you’ve got to make them,” Kreutzberger said of the free-throw opportunities.
The Spartans scored the first eight points of the second half to build the largest lead for either team at 33-24. Phifer hit consecutive baskets out of the break to jumpstart the spurt.
The Colts were scoreless through the first 6:07 of the third quarter before DiPaola, who was held to a single basket in the first half, took over. He hit four field goals sandwiched around a Phifer trey and Calhoun closed within 36-32 heading into the fourth.
It was tied at 36 with 4:37 left when Kalfas committed his fifth foul on a basket by Elmont junior big man Osagie Ekhator. The three-point play put the hosts ahead 39-36, but DiPaola answered with a pair of baskets to give the Colts their first lead since the second quarter — 40-39 — with 2:55 to go.
A Frias-Walsh bucket gave Elmont the lead back for good, and Moore’s clutch three-pointer made it 44-40 with 1:48 remaining.