Here is my game story from Martin Luther King Jr.’s win against Bridgehampton to advance to the state semifinals.
NEW ROCHELLE The staple of the Martin Luther King Jr. boys basketball team this season has been defense. Far from an offensive juggernaut, the Tigers have relied on solid defense to grind out wins.
“We hang our hat on defense,” said Martin Luther King Jr. coach Scott Green. “Our defense is our offense.”
So it seems only fitting that on Martin Luther King Jr.’s final possession of the game it would take not one, but two attempts at a game-winner as Rajien Griffin’s (pictured above) 3 lifted the Tigers to a 44-42 win over Section 11’s Bridgehampton in the Class D regional final at New Rochelle High School.
Down by one with 15.7 seconds left and the ball, the Tigers went to Griffin (22 points, seven rebounds, four steals) for the initial final shot. After the guard’s 3 bounced off the front rim, the ball was tipped back to Griffin, who knocked down his second attempt with just 0.4 seconds left.
“I had to trust my teammates, trust myself,” said Griffin of the frantic seconds following his initial miss. “There was two seconds on the clock. My coach said shoot and I just let it go.”
Martin Luther King Jr. advanced to the state semifinal where it will face the winner of University Prep (Section 5) and Sherman (Section 6) Friday at 10 a.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Tigers last trip to Glens Falls came in 2006 when they advanced to the state final.
“The program fell off a little bit and now we’re back,” Green said. “It feels great.”
Griffin’s basket saved Martin Luther King Jr. from what would have been a tough loss to swallow. Bridgehampton trailed by as many as 10 in the final minute of the third quarter.
A 12-1 Bridgehampton run down the stretch gave the Killer Bees a 37-36 lead with 4:13 remaining. At the same time, Tigers senior forward Jermaine Shaw, a major presence inside with nine points and 12 rebounds, picked up his fifth foul.
“It was real tough because I felt like I messed up,” Shaw said. “All I had to do was hold my head up and cheer my team on.”
Neither team had more than a one-point lead the remainder of the game.
Trailing 42-41 and with just 15 seconds remaining, the Tigers were forced to foul. Bridgehampton failed to convert a 1-and-1 and the Tigers gained possession, setting up Griffin’s game-winning basket.
When asked how he felt when Griffin’s second attempted 3 went in, Green smiled, stepped back and put his hands in the air.
“Total elation,” he said.
Photos courtesy of Frank Becerra/The Journal News. For the entire gallery click here.