It’s safe to say that the Mineola varsity basketball team has had its ups and downs for the 2011-12 season.
It is safe to say that if Mike Waszchuck isn’t on his game, you have a fairly good chance of beating the No. 2 team in the A-IV conference.
Wantagh was all too aware of that, having already done their homework on the Mustangs long before they walked onto the court at Mineola High School Friday night and hanging a 67-60 win on the Mineola halls to send them packing in the first round of the playoffs. Wantagh advanced to face South Side in the Nassau County Class A quarterfinals on Wednesday in Rockville Centre.
“We knew Mineola,” Warriors coach Keith Hunter said. “We’ve been in close games all season, so I knew if it was going to be close we’d have the edge. And in the fourth quarter, tie score I knew our guys, their character, their resilience, they would pull through,”
After an abysmal first half, the Mustangs had dug themselves into a 33-26 deficit with Waszchuck only managing 5 points from the floor in the first half.
“Were lucky we got Waszchuck shooting a little off today,” Hunter said.
“(We) missed a lot of layups and foulshots and out three’s weren’t hitting today and we live and die by that,” Mineola head coach Jim Hegmann said.
As had just happened a few games prior, Mineola turned to guard Malcolm Brown for guidance – and points – that started after Tommy Breslin rebounded the ball three times before the halftime buzzer before Brown hit the shot.
It would be Breslin again who helped spark the 5-0 run that would see the Mustangs end the third with a tie score of 44 apiece, keeping the rock inbounds under the basket after a swipe at the last second pushed it to Waszchuck followed by Brown for the deuce.
“Their guards were great, they were getting penetration on us all day,” Hunter said.
A steal by Bobby Rogers led to Brown going one-for-two at the line and a rebound by Matt Moro for the tie erupted the crowd.
Waszchuck and Brown looked like they were having a renaissance in the second half, matching shots with the Warriors and then some. That’s when Eric Regenbogen decided to show up.
“I knew once they started to key on our center (Brandon Devine) and they were face-guarding Justice Perez that that would open the game up for (him),” Hunter said. “So I told him to get the ball, penetrate, caps are going to be there for you, it’s just going to be up to you. It was going to be sink-or-swim with him and he came up big like he’s been doing all year.”
Drawing fouls in the clutch, the Wantagh guard nailed seven from the line in the closing minutes of the game, including a pair with less than 41 seconds on the clock, sending a knife into the heart of Mustang country.
“Back to the drawing board next year,” sighed Hegmann after Wantagh moved on to the next round.
If there is a positive, with only three seniors on the squad – Breslin, Moro and Quinn Paggi – Mineola will look to return a seasoned senior team to the hardwood next season. And losses like this tend to leave an impression and a thirst for redemption for the ones who remain.
“They’ll become seniors and they’ll take ownership now,” Hegmann said.1234F Wantagh20 13 11 2367Mineola7 19 15 1660
Mineola Scoring StatisticsPlayerPositionFGs3PTsFTsPoints Malcolm Brown Guard 4 2 6 20 Mike Waszczuk Guard 4 2 4 18 Brian Gaffney Guard 3 0 0 6 Matt Moro Forward 3 0 0 6 Bobby Rogers Forward 1 0 4 6 Thomas Breslin Forward 2 0 0 4
Wantagh Scoring StatisticsPlayerFGs3PTsFTsPoints Eric Regenbogen 6 2 9 27 Justice Perez 8 0 3 19 Brian Von Bargen 4 0 1 9 Brandon Devine 3 0 1 7 Matthew Balzano 0 1 0 3 Christian Labenberg 1 0 0 2