The Wantagh Warriors cut an eight-point South Side halftime lead to four with two minutes left in the third quarter of their quarterfinal playoff matchup on Wednesday night, but a decisive 10-2 fourth quarter run fueled by South Side's stingy defense sealed the victory for the Cyclones, 68-57.
Senior forward Ryan Spadaford, who started his first game in more than three weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, shined in his return, leading the Cyclones with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. He also nailed three, three-pointers.
"I saw when I caught the ball, they had the big kid, No. 40 on help side," Spadaford said of what the defense was giving him."I thought once I beat my man, I was going to have a layup because he was too slow react to it."
Spadaford nearly had a double-double at half, finishing the first two quarters with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Wantagh (9-10) cut South Side's (15-2) lead to four with two minutes left in the third quarter, but senior wingman Kevin Coyle (13 points, six rebounds) drained a three-pointer to push the lead back to seven. Wantagh head coach Keith Hunter said Coyle's three deflated the Warriors' run.
"I whispered to one of my guys, 'If we get it to two, they're going to feel the pressure and I think we're going to take it,'" Hunter said. "And I think it was Coyle who hit a three that brought it back to seven. It was kind of a heartbreaker."
Wantagh's leading scorer Justin Perez, who finished with 21 points, opened the fourth quarter with a slicing move to the basket that cut South Side's lead to four at 46-42. The Cyclones then clamped down on defense and forced a couple of Wantagh turnovers. The turnovers led to a 10-2 Cyclones run, which was capped by a highlight reel, fake-around-the-back pass layup by Robert Picchione. The Cyclones outscored Wantagh 21-9 in the fourth quarter.
By the end of the run, South Side held a 56-44 lead and never looked back. Head Coach Gerry D'Angelo said it was that defensive fourth-quarter stand that sealed the win.
"We had a good defensive spurt," he said. "We forced some turnovers that got us easy layups in transition. I think that was the difference."
South Side will play Hewlett in the semifinals at SUNY Old Westbury on Tuesday.