It was just a defensive wrinkle, but it produced instant results that put a twinkle in the eyes of Wyandanch center Alex Williams.
On two straight possessions, the 6-4 Williams picked off passes near the top of the key and went coast-to-coast for uncontested two-handed dunks that turned a four-point lead into eight and allowed host Wyandanch to pull away from Port Jefferson, 51-44, Thursday in a Suffolk League VII game.
"We went to a 3-2 zone because our man-to-man wasn't working," said Williams, who scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. "We doubled up on the point guard and I just made the steals."
With an open court in front of him both times, Williams admitted that his eyes were wide and glowing with anticipation. "I'm like, 'it's Showtime!' I've got to make the crowd happy," Williams said.
He certainly made coach Ken McCloud happy. The Warriors (5-2) had come out flat in the first half, admittedly still reeling from an overtime loss on Tuesday to League VII leader Hampton Bays. "That loss took the air out of us," McCloud said. "I could see it was still bothering the kids on Wednesday and we didn't have much energy in the first half today."
A late three-pointer by D'dante Freeman, who scored 15 points, cut the Warriors' halftime deficit to 26-24, but they showed life in the third quarter and a 12-2 run gave them a 37-30 lead late in the period. "We started in a zone in the first half, but we needed to pick up the pace so I put on a little press and some man-to-man in the third quarter," McCloud said. "Then they started blowing by us so I switched back to the zone."
Phil Lanieri, who led the Royals with 15 points, was the designated driver, with three layups that helped cut the deficit to 46-42 with 2:51 left. That's when the senior Williams took advantage of a couple of soft passes to finish with a flourish and finish off Port Jefferson (3-4), which also got 13 points from Juwan Veneable.
"Alex is our go-to guy," McCloud said. "He always makes the big play when we need it."