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Westchester Wins Wild OT Thriller, 112-107

Archive   ·   January 17, 2009

Peekskill, NY- It was a shame that one team had to lose a game such as this. Both the visiting Strong Island Sound and host Westchester Phantoms played as hard as two teams can, and still were at a standstill after 48 minutes. During the three-minute overtime period, the Phantoms were able to pull away and prevailed by a score of 112-107.

A wild final minute in regulation time saw three lead changes and two tied scores. Off a missed three-point attempt by Charles Jones with Strong Island leading 98-97, Ricky Johns converted a fast break to give Westchester a one-point advantage. The Sound came down the court and former Minnesota Timberwolves second-round draft choice Gordon Malone was fouled underneath. The 6’11” center hit one of two to knot things up at 99 with 50 seconds left.

The Sound then had a stop on defense and pushed the ball in the paint to Malone, who was fouled again with seven seconds left. After front rimming the first attempt, he made the second to give his team a 100-99 lead. Westchester rushed the ball over the time line and head coach Teresa Weatherspoon called time out with five seconds to go. The ex-New York Liberty star called a play for Johns in the corner, who was double-teamed. Somehow, he was able to throw up a desperation three-point shot that banked in, giving the home team a 102-100 lead.

“He was trapped,” Sound head coach Dytanya Mixson said. “You couldn’t ask for a better defensive effort. We’re only up by one so you can’t foul.”

With only two ticks remaining, Mixson called time out and instructed Raphael Edwards to inbound the ball to the top of the key on the opposite end to Shawn Simpson. With the ball in flight, Simpson was held by Jomo Belfor, sending him to the line for two free throws. With ice water in his veins, the man nicknamed ‘Murder’ calmly sank both attempts to send the game into overtime.

“The only thing that mattered to me at that time (following regulation) was to tell my players to let it go,” Weatherspoon said following the game. “We’ve got three minutes.”

Belfor opened up the extra session with a three-pointer, and the Phantoms never looked back. When the lead swelled to seven, the Sound could not find their touch and had to resort to fouling to keep the clock from winding down. Westchester was very effective from the charity stripe all day and was able to maintain a comfortable cushion.

Mixson reflected on what happened in the overtime period. “That shot (three-pointer by Johns) just took the air out of the balloon,” he said. “They worked so hard in the fourth quarter.”

Early in the game, it appeared that Strong Island would come away the victor, opening up a 23-9 lead following a 10-0 run after the first 8:10 of action. Sean Dantzler came off the bench and immediately contributed by hitting from beyond the arc, helping Strong Island maintain their lead and the score was 31-21 at the end of the first quarter.

The Phantoms went on a 6-2 run to start the second quarter and were able to keep it close. A turning point in the quarter was Belfor getting fouled while attempting a three-pointer with the 3-D rule in effect. Belfor, a local favorite from Mount Vernon, hit all four attempts from the line and the game was even at 33 at the 8:55 mark.

Richard Pollack worked hard underneath and gave Westchester their first lead since the early going on a put-back, 49-48, with 2:35 left in the first half. The Phantoms outscored the Sound by 11 in the second quarter and led at halftime, 57-56.

Starting off the third similar to the way they ended the second, the Phantoms hit a quick three and a two to lengthen the lead. They were beating the taller Sound players to the boards on the offensive end, making their opponent pay for being slow on defense.

Dantzler ignited a Strong Island run by hitting two jumpers and then followed that up with one from downtown off a steal by Jones to give the Sound the lead again with 3:57 left in the third. The Phantoms responded and led 85-81 heading into the fourth quarter.

End to end action led up to the frenzy in the final minute, and the crowd at Peekskill High School was very vocal in their support of their new team, which moved from Brooklyn at the completion of the 2006-07 season.

Elton Brand’s alma mater was definitely a lively place during and after the game, and his high school basketball jersey was displayed proudly on the wall behind one of the baskets. His mother, Daisy, and brother Artie McGriff are the Phantoms’ owners and the Los Angeles Clippers star must have been proud of his family and the good win.

The folks in attendance cheered the loudest for Weatherspoon, the former WNBA Defensive Player of the Year who retired after the 2004 season. She had the same intensity from her days with the Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks and is a very good addition to the league. “I really love it,” Weatherspoon said regarding her first ABA experience. “What I really like the most are the young men that I’m involved with every day.”

The Sound look to rebound in their next game on Friday, November 9 in Delaware against the expansion First State Fusion. Strong Island’s home opener is on Sunday, November 11 at 7:15 p.m at Suffolk Community College in Selden versus the Fusion. Tickets are available at the door and by visiting

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