Before he gave his halftime talk to his Mattituck High School boys basketball team, coach Paul Ellwood had a personal message for Xavier Allen after his sophomore guard had missed all four of his foul shots in the first half.
“I don’t want you to listen to anything I have to say at halftime,” he told him. “I just want you go get back out there and get on the foul line.”
Message received. Allen canned 6 of 9 attempts in the fourth quarter and helped the Tuckers to a 51-47 victory at Shoreham-Wading River High School in a Coaches vs. Cancer game Thursday.
“When he got close, he just worked on his stroke,” Ellwood said. “He’s usually money from the foul line. I said it must have been the sneakers. He was wearing pink sneakers for Coaches vs. Cancer. So, something’s off.”
But Allen was on when it counted. After Nick Perino’s three-point basket lifted the Tuckers (7-2) into a 30-29 lead for good with 10.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Isaiah Johnson (14 points) put away two free throws to extend the lead to three points over the Wildcats with 7:27 left in the fourth period.
Then came a key sequence that separated the Tuckers and Wildcats (1-7).
Allen, who finished with 13 points, sank a trey to extend the advantage to 35-29 with 6:26 left just as Mattituck’s Trevor Poole and Shoreham’s Andrew Blanco were called for dual fouls under the boards. Blanco was assessed a technical foul for a comment to the referees.
Allen sank both of his tries.
The Tuckers inbounded the ball and Poole (12 points, 14 rebounds) worked his way for a layup and a 39-29 lead with 6:21 remaining.
“We got a break and we took advantage of it,” Ellwood said. “You have to do that on the road sometimes.”
Despite facing a 46-34 deficit with 3:26 left in the quarter, the Wildcats refused to give up and staged a comeback. They pulled within three points twice, the last time on Kyle Boden’s basket with 17.3 seconds to go, seven seconds after Allen sank two foul shots. Boden had 14 points.
But Allen put another one away with 4.2 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“I think you chalk this one up for the game over the holidays,” Ellwood said. “It’s in the middle of the afternoon and sometimes they’re a little blah. It was hard for both teams to get going. It felt like we were both stuck in a tar pit there for a while.”
Xavier Arline scored 11 points for Shoreham.