WHITE PLAINS – As Emmett Robin dribbled away from the rim with his back to the basket, the shot clock clicked toward zero. Robin finally peeked out of the corner of his eye as he heard coach Mike Tomassi shout “State.” It was now or never.
“It’s obviously not the same as in practice,” Robin said. “We’ve run that play and we work on it every day, but to see it work at that time, it’s a great feeling.”
Robin slipped left around a pick and swished a runner from well beyond the 3-point line at the top of the key with 47 seconds left. It was just the shot No. 2 Fox Lane needed to withstand a late charge from No. 11 White Plains. The Foxes won the Class AA semifinal 65-58 at the County Center and advanced to Sunday’s championship game.
The three points were Robin’s only points all game.
“We were looking for a dagger the whole time, but we kept on fouling them and they kept on getting free throws,” said Robin, a 5-foot-8 senior. “To come out and hit a 3-pointer with that amount of time left in the game was huge for us.”
The Foxes (20-3) had struggled protecting the ball since they took a 12-point lead midway through the second quarter. Big men Matt Redhead and Alex Olsen had been successful early, but their effectiveness was limited when White Plains (13-10) turned up the pressure.
Both teams were wracked with foul trouble. The Tigers even had their rotation shortened just 13 seconds into the game when starting forward Braxton Gill bumped heads with an opposing player and suffered a concussion. He never returned.
Still, White Plains pushed Fox Lane to the brink — right up until Robin’s prayer was answered.
“They’re that type of team,” Tomassi said. “Coach Mayfield is a fabulous coach, one of the best around. You knew they were going to keep coming, that they weren’t going to quit.”
The Foxes advanced to their first Section 1 final since 2004 when Tomassi was the team’s sophomore point guard. They will play No. 1 Mount Vernon at noon Sunday.
Player of the game: Matt Redhead, Fox Lane. In a game where Fox Lane never quite got comfortable, Redhead’s rebounding and free-throw shooting ultimately helped close out White Plains in the fourth quarter. He also provided a safety valve in the post from the Tigers’ pressure, which forced 23 turnovers. Redhead matched a team-high with 19 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Turning point: Although White Plains made it a one-possession game in the second half, Fox Lane built itself enough of a cushion during a 14-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters. The Foxes held the Tigers scoreless for nearly seven minutes during that span and played with that lead the rest of the night.
Stat line: Alex Olsen had 19 points and six rebounds, but he missed most of the fourth quarter and eventually fouled out. He and Redhead combined to shoot 11 for 15. … Jamal Jackson-Blake added 10 points and Sean New scored eight, but all eight came in the second half. … Luis Cartagena led White Plains with 26 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. C.J. Layne and Lamar Noel each added 10 points and three steals.
Quotable: “He’s been hitting big shots for four years. That’s nothing new,” Tomassi said. “He’s as tough as nails and would run through the wall if I asked him to.”