With his father in attendance all the way from Brembate, Italy, Federico Chiappa put on a memorable performance to help the boys’ basketball team pull out a 51-49 thriller over Knox on Tuesday night.
The junior shooting guard scored a team-high 14 points that included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer before the half and an even bigger shot in the closing moments of the game. Stony Brook/Knox match-ups have become must-see events in recent years. The two squads split the last four games coming into Tuesday’s tilt and the latest edition did not disappoint.
The Bears came out swinging, building a 9-0 lead behind a pair of 3-pointers by Orlando Morris and a Nate Small jumper. Two free throws and a trifecta pulled the Falcons back within 5-9, but Chiappa answered with a pretty spin move and layup before Small drove for a score and a 13-5 advantage. Knox was not rattled by the Bears’ quick start and showed their poise by scoring the final six points of the quarter to trail 11-13 after one.
Osazee Alapa opened the second frame with an and-1 to push the Blue & White lead to 16-11, but Knox took their first lead of the night in the final minute on a jumper that gave them a 20-19 edge. After a stop, the Falcons had a crack at the last shot of the half, but the Bear defense sank its teeth in and caused a turnover with four seconds left. Chiappa grabbed the ball, dribbled up court, and buried a 3-pointer over the outstretched hand of a Knox defender as the buzzer sounded to bring the Swanson faithful to their feet and give The Brook a 22-20 lead at the midway point.
The Bears fired out of the break with an 16-2 run to take a commanding 38-22 lead. Zemitis began the run with a drive and layup before Morris added another 3-pointer. Two Nate Small steals fed a Zemitis layup and a Chiappa floater, bookending a pair of Chiappa free throws. Following a block, Onana Awana buried a 3-pointer before Small stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted a layup to send a surge through Swanson. With the Bears charged up and the Falcons reeling, it looked like a knockout punch was imminent. Instead, Knox got off the ropes and finished the quarter on a 13-2 run to trail by just five entering the final frame.
With their cushion all but gone, the Bears answered back when Zemitis converted a layup and Morris canned his fourth 3-pointer to give The Brook a 45-35 margin. Knox hit a jumper but two Chiappa free throws kept the lead at 10 before a 12-2 Knox run knotted the game at 49-49 with 1:25 remaining. The Bears turned the ball over on their next possession, but got the stop they needed when Onana Awana blocked a shot inside and Chiappa and Small scrapped for the loose ball, leading to a Bears’ possession with 17 seconds remaining.
In the final sequence, Chiappa dished the ball to Morris on the right wing and cut from the top of the key to the right corner. Morris drove and drew two defenders as Chiappa made a heady backdoor baseline cut. Morris made a perfect pass that allowed Chiappa to slip behind the Knox big man and hit the winning layup just ahead of the buzzer to send the vocal Blue Fan Group home happy.
The win evened the Bears’ league record at 1-1 thanks to Chiappa’s 14 points and the balanced attack of Morris (12), Small (10), Zemitis (6), Alapa (5), and Onana Awana (4). The Blue & White are back in action this afternoon in a match-up at Waldorf.