Finishing the Job: Williams Helps Long Branch Upset Lakewood
LONG BRANCH - Two times last season, Long Branch took a quality Manasquan team to the brink in a tournament, only to leave in frustration.
On Saturday at the Boardwalk Hoop Group Showcase, it looked like another heart-breaker was brewing for the Green Wave in a high-profile game. However, senior Deon Williams showed that this year's squad has learned from its past failures and has what it takes to finish the job.
After Lakewood's Maurice Diawara made one of two free throws for a one-point lead with 2.6 seconds left, Long Branch senior guard Terrel Cox threw a long baseball pass from his own baseline to a streaking Myson Pennington. His lay-up attempt was off the mark, but Williams snatched the rebound and put it back in to beat the buzzer and give the Green Wave a thrilling 50-49 upset victory on their home floor over the defending Shore Conference Tournament champions, who are ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
"I actually didn't think there was enough time left,'' Williams said. "I actually hesitated for a split second because I thought the time ran out, but then I just put it back up. This tells the Shore Conference that we're here now. Hoop Group showcase - this is what it's all about."
"Some people believed that we shouldn't have even been in this event playing against Lakewood, so this should open a few eyes up to show that we're here to win,'' Cox said.
Long Branch (6-2) had no timeouts remaining when Diawara went to the foul line after Cox inexplicably fouled him on an inbounds play with the game tied at 48. The Green Wave showed their ability to execute under frantic pressure in the final seconds with their winning play. That is a set play called "SMU" in which head coach Stan Mooney calls out the name of whoever he thinks can get open down the court. With 6-foot-6 Lakewood senior Ben Watson guarding the inbounds, Cox hurled a perfect pass to Pennington, a 6-foot-4 senior who played free safety and wide receiver on the football team, to set up the winning play.
"With 2.6 left, the clock doesn't start until Myson touches the ball,'' Mooney said. "Two-point-six seconds is a lot of time. People don't think it's a lot of time, but it's enough to make a play. Coming off the loss to Matawan and playing a tough Red Bank team, then playing in an event like this, this was real big for us."
Cox was named the Player of the Game for the No. 4 Green Wave with a game-high 17 points, and Williams finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Senior Dan Niblack was Lakewood's Player of the Game with 13 points, and Sean Barksdale added 11 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter to get the Piners back in the game.
Long Branch remained poised despite surrendering a nine-point lead in the final four minutes. A pair of free throws by Pennington gave the Green Wave a 44-35 advantage with 4:22 remaining before Lakewood (5-2) began chipping away. Barksdale went on a one-man 8-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game at 46 with 2:55 to go.
"We explained to them that we were here last year,'' Mooney said. "The crew on the floor was almost the same as the one last year in the two games where we played Manasquan tough. Now we're back in the situation. Coach (Don) Covin and I said, 'We've been here before. Relax and play.' And they did."
A pair of free throws by Kenny Barrow gave Long Branch a two-point lead with 2:40 remaining, but Lakewood tied it on a bucket by Watson. The Green Wave were then whistled for a backcourt violation, and Lakewood held the ball for the final 1:30 to get the last shot. A miss by Watson resulted in a tie-up for a jump ball, and Lakewood had the possession arrow. Cox then fouled Diawara before the ball was inbounded, resulting in the two free throws that started the final sequence.
The game was tight throughout, as Lakewood led 21-18 at the half. Long Branch was able to slow down the high-scoring Piners, who shot 16-for-46 (34.8 percent) from the field in the game, thanks to a 2-3 zone that the Green Wave installed only a day before the game.
"Coach Covin had a light bulb,'' Mooney said. "He asked me about the zone, and I said, 'Let's go with it.' The guys listened today. Anybody who has Big Ben (Watson) in the middle, you want them to shoot outside instead of giving it to Ben down low. Myson, Hassan (Foster) and Deon also did a great job of rebounding."
The Green Wave took the lead in the third quarter by starting on a 6-0 run fueled by five points from Cox, one of the Shore Conference's top scorers. They didn't allow a basket in the period until Lakewood's Ryan Lawrence scored with 3:19 remaining to cut the lead to 24-23. Long Branch closed the quarter on a 5-1 run for a 32-27 advantage heading into the fourth quarter before polishing off their biggest win of the season over the defending Shore Conference Tournament champions.
Long Branch 50, Lakewood 49
Lakewood (49): Joshua 1 1-2 3, Lawrence 2 0-0 5, Niblack 5 1-1 13, Diawara 1 2-5 4, Tyler 2 1-2 7, Grayson 0 0-0 0, Barksdale 2 2-2 11, Reed 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 10-16 49.
Long Branch (50): Cox 5 7-10 17, H. Foster 1 0-0 2, Williams 5 1-2 12, Pennington 2 2-3 6, Irizarry 1 0-0 2, Barrow 1 5-6 8J. Foster 1 0-0 3, Colbert 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 15-21 50.
Lakewood (5-2) 11 10 6 22 - 49
Long Branch (6-2) 12 6 14 18 - 50
Three-pointers: (Lake) Lawrence, Niblack 2, Tyler, Barksdale 3; (LB) Williams, Barrow, J. Foster. Fouled out: None.