As Jalyn Dunlap set up on the low blocks, the only thought in his mind was that Jonathan Dean would knock down a pair of free throws to put Westbury up with 13.2 seconds left in the Long Island Class AA final.
Dean missed the first of a one-and-one bonus, but Dunlap pounced on the rebound and scored the winning putback with 10 seconds left to lift the Green Dragons to thrilling 61-60 win over Hills East Sunday at Stony Brook’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
“That’s all I was thinking. It’s JT at the line. I thought both of them were going in,” Dunlap said. “When I saw it bounce off the rim, it kind of got slow. I was like this is it. I have to go get it. I grabbed it and put it back up and fortunately it just fell for me.”
Dunlap scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. His heroics helped Westbury rally from a 15-point second quarter deficit to win a first-ever Long Island ‘AA’ title and first LIC since capturing the ‘A’ crown in 2010.
"We kept our confidence. We never thought we were going to lose the game,” the junior guard said. “It was all heart and effort. We didn’t want to go home and we played like it.”
Dean (16 points, 11 rebounds) was sure his free throws were going to fall, too, but wasn’t surprised that Dunlap came up big in the biggest spot of the season.
“He was ready. I knew he was ready,” Dean said. “I thought I was going to make both. I’m glad he was there. He was playing great all game. I’m proud of him.”
Hills East had a chance to win it late. Savion Lewis (12 points), who missed the front end of a one-and-one with 16 seconds left, took the inbound and raced up the court, driving right before passing back to Sean Lulley.
The senior forward quickly looked inside to Zach Schwartz, but his contested shot in the lane bounced off the side of the rim at the buzzer, setting off a wild celebration for Westbury.
As was the case in the Suffolk Class AA final, Hills East (21-5), ranked No. 20 in the Tri-State by News 12 Varsity, got off to a hot start and led 28-13 with 3:54 left in the second quarter following a pair of free throws by Julien Crittendon, who had a game-high 29 points.
Although it looked bleak, Westbury (20-4) never lacked confidence in a comeback. The Green Dragons attacked the offensive glass with ferocity to close out the first half on a 13-2 run and pull within four.
“We kept our heads in the game, fought on the defensive end, got the boards and ran on the other end,” Dean said.
Westbury took its first lead on a Dunlap layup with 2:42 left in the third quarter, but Hills East wrestled the lead back on an 18-foot jumper by Lewis early in the fourth.
The Thunderbirds lead was 58-53 with 2:08 remaining, but Dunlap responded with back-to-back buckets to pull Westbury within one with 1:05 left.
Crittendon knocked down a pair of free throws with 34.1 seconds remaining to extend the Hills East lead to 60-57. Isaiah Bien-Aise (nine points, 10 rebounds) picked up an errant Darius Young 3-point attempt and scored inside to again cut the Green Dragons deficit to one with 16 seconds left.
Dunlap would similarly pick up Dean on his missed free throw to score the biggest basket of his life to this point to send Westbury to the New York State Class AA semifinals to take on perennial powerhouse Mount Vernon March 18 at 2:30 p.m. from Binghamton’s Floyd L. Maines Arena.
“It feels unreal,” Dunlap said. “Going to states is what you dream about.”