Written by Vinny Messana Friday, 14 March 2014 00:00
The gym erupted with joy as the Farmingdale Dalers captured the Nassau County AA title for the first time since 1980. Players, parents, students and coaches swarmed the floor after the final buzzer, hugging each other and smiling ear to ear. The players themselves looked alternately elated, stunned and drained.
Led by a dominating defense, the team held on through a tight game to beat Uniondale 38-35, holding their opponents to under 40 points for the third straight playoff game.
“Nobody gave us a chance in the beginning of the year,” said senior Malik Seelal, who scored 11 points and blocked the potential game-tieing three in the waning seconds of the game. “That was the driving force behind us. We worked for this every single day. We had more to play for than the other teams.”
Adding to the motivation: Uniondale had eliminated the Dalers last season in the playoffs 67-65.
“They were demons to us,” said Seelal. “We exorcised that demon today. I couldn’t be happier.”
Curtis Jenkins led the scoring for Farmingdale with 14 points. He also hit the biggest shot of the game, late in the fourth quarter. With the Dalers trailing 33-32, Jenkins attempted a three-pointer off the dribble and nailed the shot, putting the Dalers back on top by two with two minutes remaining.
From that point on, the Knights launched desperate three-point attempts but the Dalers did a tremendous job of defending, despite nearly dropping their lead by failing to hit free throws in the fourth quarter. They shot 3-15 as a team in the fourth quarter and 6-26 foul shooting.
The powerful defensive effort kept them alive. Their ability to contain the athletic guards of the Knights, such as Imran Ritchie who led with 16 points and hit two consecutive threes in a span of five seconds that made the fourth quarter interesting.
“I just deny the ball and use my size and strength like coach says,” said center Ron Winkler. The senior center who led the defense all season, was one of the main reasons the Dalers held opponents to an incredible 43 points per game.
What really separates the Dalers from other strong defensive teams is that they are equally potent in the interior and perimeter. Ron Winkler and Dallas Creamer stifle the opposition’s big men. In this case it was Nick Danns who was struggling to get a clean look in the post. On the outside; Jenkins, Seelal, Jack Burke and Dan McKeon play intense defense and are proficient at forcing turnovers on routine passes. They are very instinctive and aggressive.
The Dalers will have the week to prepare for the Long Island Championship game at Hofstra this Saturday at 3:30, when they take on Brentwood, the Suffolk AA champion.