ROYALS 65, MONARCHS 61
Euphoria to dejection, all in a matter of seconds.
After a baseline layup from Mercy senior Patrick Stepnoski put the Monarchs ahead by a point with 10 seconds left against Port Jefferson Friday night, the Royals answered with a coast-to-coast drive from Philip Lanieri for the game-winning basket and a 65-61 League VII victory.
Stepnoski’s basket put the Monarchs ahead for the first time since it was 8-5 midway through the first quarter. The Monarchs trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter before staging their comeback.
The Monarchs were out of timeouts after Lanieri scored with 4 seconds left in the game. Sophomore Asaiah Wilson grabbed the ball on the baseline and threw an outlet pass to the streaking Nykel Reese. But the pass was picked off before midcourt and Brandon Fabbri fired up a 3-pointer that banked in for the final score, although the basket should not have counted. Replays showed he released the ball well after the clock hit zero. But it didn’t matter for Mercy, which has found itself on the wrong end of several close games this season. The Monarchs lost their second straight and slipped to 1-4 in league, leaving themselves little room for error going forward to make the playoffs.
The Monarchs trailed by six with 1:25 left before a wild finish.
Senior Joe Crosser drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:16 left to slice the deficit in half. The Monarchs got a defensive stop on their next possession, before turning it over with 40 seconds left. After a free throw from Port Jefferson senior Anthony Lanieri (19 points) made it a four-point game, the Monarchs got a three-point play from Reese. He caught a feed down low from Stepnoski and scored plus the foul. He hit the free throw and the Monarchs immediately called a timeout to set up their press in hopes for a steal.
The Royals (4-4, 2-3 League VII) got the ball inbounds to Philip Lanieri, who was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Monarchs called their final timeout with 15 seconds left and inbounded from midcourt. Crosser threw the ball into Stepnoski, who drove the baseline and put the ball up off the glass with his right hand, sending the crowd at McGann-Mercy High School into a frenzy.
The Royals called for time, setting up the final play.
Port Jefferson senior Juwan Veneable scored 18 points. Wilson, who got off to a hot start with three treys in the first nine minutes, led the Monarchs with 16 points. Stepnoski had 15 and Reese added 11.