For most of the game, Ryan Hickey must have felt like a commuter in rush hour. Everywhere he turned, there was traffic.
The Smithtown West point guard appeared to activate an internal GPS, using his superior dribbling ballhandling ability to navigate alternate routes to the basket. But with the score tied late and North Babylon throwing up roadblocks, Hickey couldn't drive.
So he parked.
He found himself wide open on the left wing after a defender stumbled, and drilled a three-pointer that put Smithtown West ahead to stay in a taut 63-61 Suffolk AA-III victory Thursday night at North Babylon. The Bulls improved to 8-3, 6-2 in league. The Bulldogs fell to 8-4, 6-2.
"I shoot every shot with confidence," said Hickey, who scored 31 points, most of them in the congested paint area. The shot that broke a 58-all tie with 2:42 left, however, was uncontested.
Even after Hickey followed that trey with a tough bank shot in the lane that made it 63-58, there was plenty of time left for North Babylon. Cortland Speight (14 points) sank a three with 1:22 remaining, and following a couple of empty trips for both teams, the Bulldogs played tough defense and forced a shot-clock violation with nine seconds left.
But Hickey got his hands on the inbounds pass, disrupting the flow, and North Babylon missed two hurried shots before the buzzer. "A game like that required a lot of heart and we really persevered as a team," Hickey said.
Billy Behrens contributed 16 points for the Bulls, including four threes. Mike Baiardi added two huge second-half treys as North Babylon tried to take away Hickey's long-range shot. So he responded by driving (seven layups) and dishing (five assists). "It's a team-oriented offense. My teammates know that as soon as I get past the first man, I'll find them," Hickey said.
The Bulls built a 14-point lead late in the third quarter, but North Babylon's Kamal Lewter (18 points) and Melshawn McPherson (eight of his 15 in the fourth) helped erase it.
That left it up to Hickey, who always has the green light. Said Smithtown West coach Mike Agostino, "I have an awful lot of confidence when Ryan's got an open look."