Friday, 02 April 2010 00:00
On Saturday night, March 20, at a steamy Island Garden in West Hempstead, before an enthusiastic crowd, Coach Warren Wagner’s eighth-grade Long Island Lightning AAU Basketball team, sponsored by Celebrity Diner, stunned previously unbeaten (14-0) LI Lightning Law 43-40, to capture the eighth-grade Division 1 Super League Championship.
In order to advance to the title game, Wagner’s crew defeated a tough LI Lightning Rothman team in the quarterfinals, 51-37. In the semifinals, Lightning Wagner drew LI Lightning Ford, who finished the regular Super League season in 2nd place. Despite missing several key players, the undermanned and undersized Lightning Wagner team played a near flawless game, winning 53-44 despite being heavy underdogs. The title game saw Lightning Wagner matched up against heavily favored and previously undefeated LI Lightning Law.
Due to injuries and illness, Lightning Wagner started the game with only seven players. The game was close throughout the first half. Lightning Law took an early 17-11 advantage, before Lightning Wagner made a run to go into halftime down 23-22. The second half started out poorly for Lightning Wagner, and it looked like Lightning Law was poised to run Lightning Wagner out of the gym by scoring the first 5 points of the second half. After a time out by Coach Wagner, his team settled down, played a tenacious 3-2 zone defense, and took a 36-32 lead with five minutes left in the game, when Lightning Wagner’s center fouled out of the game leaving the team with six players and at a severe height disadvantage. With 23 seconds left in the game, Lightning Law took a 2-point lead.
After a Wagner timeout, Law came out in a 3-2 zone defense. Coach Wagner countered by putting his best passer, Jericho’s Michael Goren, at the foul line, and his two best outside shooters in the corners. Goren took an entry pass, found Jericho’s Daniel Schneider wide open in the right corner, and with two defenders rushing out at him, Schneider calmly sank a 3 point field goal that hit nothing but net to give Lightning Wagner a 41-40 lead with 6 seconds left. Lightning Law pushed the ball up court quickly, and drew a questionable foul call with 2.7 seconds left, sending the Lightning Law player to the line for a 1 and 1. The foul shot clanged off the rim, Lightning Wagner corralled the rebound and was fouled.
Lightning Wagner then hit both free throws, and when Lightning Law missed a desperation 3 point field goal at the buzzer, Lightning Wagner reigned supreme. The team was coached by Jericho resident, Warren Wagner, with help from his assistant coach and son, Scott Wagner. The team was led by Jericho’s own Michael Goren and Daniel Schneider as well as Kenny Radigan, Jonah Kaplan, Brendan McDerby, Mike Reinertsen, Aaron Jackson, Jared Bradford, Sam Breslow, Nick Chapman and Sam Gubernikoff. The team now begins the Spring AAU season and has entered six tournaments across the region. The team would like to thank their parents and their sponsor, Celebrity Diner, for all of their support.