When Haldane coach Joe Virgadamo drew up his final play of regulation on Tuesday night — his team down to Tuckahoe by 2 with 12.7 seconds to remaining — he provided his players several options for the last shot. None of them really involved Liam Irwin.
As usual, Irwin’s job was to camp out in the paint just in case there was a chance for a rebound.
With the clock ticking towards zero and Haldane’s season on the line, the ball took a fortunate bounce off the rim in Irwin’s direction.
“The got a reversal, the play breaks down and then Liam gets the rebound,” Virgadamo said. “We keep him under there just for that.”
Irwin snared the rebound and laid it back up for the game-tying basket before the Blue Devils ran away with a 63-54 victory in overtime for the Section 1 Class C semifinal at the Westchester County Center. Here’s the final play of regulation:
Haldane put back at the buzzer. We are going to OT at 51-51 pic.twitter.com/g2xcoAKJlf
— Kevin Devaney Jr. (@KDJmedia1) February 21, 2018
Irwin finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Nick DiPalo had 19 and Matt Champlin added 18 for Haldane, which will face either Solomon Schechter or Hamilton in the Class C final on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Pace University.
“He was the MVP tonight,” Virgadamo said. “He was dying, too, out there. He was huge all night and we aren’t going to overtime without him.”
Irwin received a loud ovation from Haldane supporters when he emerged from the locker room after the game. An unlikely hero for a team making an unexpected trip back to the title game.
“I’ve never had a game like this,” Irwin said. “But this is what you work for every day.”
The final three minutes of the game was an almost strange stretch of basketball where Tuckahoe, despite maintaining the lead the entire way, rushed possessions and several ill-advised shots.
Haldane took advantage, despite struggling to hit shots of its own. The Tigers rushed a possession with under a minute to play, giving Haldane the ball back down with 24 seconds to go. The Blue Devils ran the clock down to 12 before a timeout to set up the game-tying play.
“I kept thinking we were in trouble,” said Virgadamo said of the fourth quarter. “But one of my assistants kept saying ‘It’s a one possession game. It’s a one possession game. We are good.’ And he was right.”
The momentum of Irwin’s shot carried Haldane into overtime. The Blue Devils scored the first seven points in the extra session to put the game out of reach.
Malik Moore-Crooks had 21 points for Tuckahoe in the loss.
Irwin was among the handful of football players on the Haldane roster aiming for revenge after losing on a last-second play in the Section 1 title game.
“That means a lot,” Irwin said. “There’s a lot of trash talk and there’s a lot of rivalry between us.”