February 4, 2003

 Game Highlights

.Bellport's Late Rally Edges Copiague in Overtime
By Jason Molinet

Confidence surged like an electric current through the Bellport boys basketball team's huddle once Copiague senior point guard LeMichael Allen fouled out last night. There was 2:06 left in overtime and Bellport trailed by three points in the Suffolk League III battle for first place. But without Allen to direct Copiague, the frantic Bellport press would surely force a critical mistake.

Premonition became reality in the final minute. Jermaine Russell's steal and outlet pass to Rha-Mel Flippen turned into an easy layup at the other end. Alvin Dennis finished the sequence with an inside basket for an 82-81 Bellport lead with 35 seconds to go.

As Copiague made one last effort to win, the ball found its way to Allen's replacement, Sean Smith. This time, Flippen took away the ball and dribbled furiously around the court as the final eight seconds drained off the clock. Then Flippen fired the ball toward the rafters as the home crowd of 800 let loose. Bellport, which trailed by 12 in the first half, rallied to win its most significant game of the season, 82-81.

"This team doesn't give up at all," said point guard Jason Trent, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. "The whole game, I just knew we were going to pull it out. And when LeMichael fouled out, we knew they only had one more ballhandler. So we just put pressure on the ball."

Trent had his own reasons to put on a resolute face. The 6-2 senior sat on the bench the first time these teams met, a 76-69 Copiague win Jan. 14. It was the first of four games Trent missed after being declared ineligible by the school for missing class. The issue was resolved after a meeting of the Trent family, their attorney and superintendent Michael LaFever on Jan. 27.

The Clippers (14-1, 8-1) have been a different team in the three games since. "The interesting thing with Trent, he doesn't seem to hold a grudge," Bellport coach Jim McGowan said. "He just wanted to come back and play. He's such a calming influence on this team. He makes a tremendous difference."

Copiague (13-2, 8-1), which had won 10 straight, gets a similar lift from Allen, a four-year starter who is equal parts playmaker and scorer. Three days after setting a school record with 50 points, Allen had 20 points and nine assists. His layup with 22 seconds left in regulation gave the Eagles a 75-72 edge.

But Russell, an inside presence who scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, forced OT with a three-point play off a putback to tie it at 75 with nine seconds to go. Bellport's sense of self only grew from there. "We wanted a piece of the league championship," said Russell, who had 13 rebounds and four blocks. "We needed to win the game to do that."

Each team has three games left, and Copiague coach Steve Rebholz is determined to salvage a lesson from this setback. Rebholz said, "I sincerely believe this loss will make us stronger."

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

Team  1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rdQuarter  4thQuarter Over Time Final Score
Bellport 13 16 27 19 7 82
Copiague 20 15 23 17 6 81

Scoring Summary
B: Trent 3-6-12, Flippen 3-2-8, Dennis 7-1-15, Russell 8-3-19, Garrison 3-0-6,
Mitchell 4-0-9, Street 3-2-12, Jackson 2-0-4. Totals: 33-14-82.
C: Allen 8-1-20, Coward 4-7-11, Laurence 2-0-4, Jones 0-2-2,
Lipski 11-0-24, St. Robert 8-4-20. Totals: 33-10-81.
Three-pointers: B 2 (Mitchell, Street); C 3 (Allen 3, Lipinski 2).

  Team 2003 Index