By Sean Lynch
WOODBURY —The Wizards were trailing by two with 1:28 left when Washingtonville head coach Todd Rose used two timeouts before an inbounds play. Every possession mattered; every second with the ball mattered, and Rose waited until his team got the look they were hoping for with the game on the line.
Senior forward Kareem Lubin found junior center Romeo Aquino for a wide-open layup coming off a play in stack formation.
The layup tied the game for the Wizards, who hadn’t led since early in the third quarter.
They went on a 6-0 run to start the second half, but Monroe-Woodbury answered with a 17-3 run of their own to end the third quarter.
“We came out in the fourth quarter with a lot of energy,” said Aquino. “The crowd helped us a lot. We got behind them and that’s when we went on that fourth quarter scoring run.”
In the last 6:38 of the game (including overtime), Washingtonville went on a 13-0 to secure a hard-fought 49-41 win over Monroe-Woodbury.
“There’s some highs and lows in every game,” said Rose. “We’ve been down before, but these guys never give up. They always believe they can get the job done, and I think that’s what pushed us until the final whistle tonight.”
The Wizards played a half court press that transitioned into a 2-3 zone throughout the first three quarters. Rose added that once the team switched to man-to man in the fourth quarter, “We started acting like predators and not prey.”
For the second consecutive game, Washingtonville was led in scoring by Aquino — who led both teams with 18 points. Lots of people don’t know who Romeo is because he spent last season on the junior-varsity team.
Ever since he made his varsity debut last Monday, he’s been wreaking havoc. Through three games, he’s scored 51 points, grabbed 33 rebounds, and has blocked 12 shots. (17 PPG, 11 RPG & 4 BPG).
“He’s a beast, Rose added. “He may be only 6-foot-3, but he’s extremely athletic and can take rebounds away from other teams’ forwards. Watching him grow from last season to this season has been fun to watch. He’s invaluable to our team.”
“It feels good to be able to score for the team, but I’m not really worried about leading the team in points and all that,” said Aquino. “I’m here to win games; not the points, not the stats, none of that. I’m just here to win games.”
Lubin made sure to give props to his teammates after the win, crediting their ball-movement and defense in the final minutes of the game. “We moved the ball really well, especially late in the game,” he said. “Our defense tightened up when it mattered the most and it helped us get this win tonight.”
Offensively, it was a battle for Lubin. 6-foot-3 Monroe-Woodbury forward Chris Lulgjuraj stood his ground, blocking two of his shots in the second half. “Lots of respect to the Monroe-Woodbury basketball team, he added. They made me work for every point, and I’m glad we got the win.”
Senior forward Conor Coffey led the Crusaders (1-1) with 15 points (three 3-pointers), Lulgjuraj added eight points and six rebounds.
When Rose set up the schedule, he wanted to pick three tough teams to start off the season against. They played three of the top teams in Section 9 with one day of rest in between, winning all three games.
“These guys are resilient,” Rose added. “The team gelled really well during summer league, and into the fall league. And now, you can really start to see everyone meshing together. You can’t ask for a much better start than 3-0 in the first week, and we hope to keep up this level of success. throughout the season.”