Crerend’s 3-Pointers Lift Fox Lane Over the Indians

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Fox Lane’s Will Crerend dribbles past midcourt as he’s guarded by John Jay’s Bryce Ford.

A year ago, back when he was just a sophomore, Will Crerend probably would have been watching the final minute of a tense and dramatic Fox Lane basketball game from a seat somewhere on the Foxes’ bench.

But on Saturday evening, with the Foxes and neighboring rival John Jay locked in an up-for-grabs battle, Crerend was on the court during the pivotal last moments and providing the two biggest baskets of the night, both of them 3-pointers.

It was a 3-point shot by Crerend from the right wing with just two seconds remaining that broke the fifth tie of the game and lifted the Foxes to a thrilling 49-46 victory over the visiting Indians in the championship game of their inaugural Booster Club Tip-Off Tournament. Crerend finished with a game-high 15 points and earned the tourney’s MVP honors.

“Last year, we had a lot of guards playing,” said the soft-spoken Crerend, who has helped the Foxes to a 4-2 start to the 2018-19 season. “I didn’t get a lot of minutes last year. This year, I’m vaulted into a starting spot. My confidence has definitely grown a lot throughout these first couple games and I feel like I’m right there with everybody else.”

On the Foxes’ final, fateful possession, with nine seconds remaining, Crerend received an inbounds pass from Josh Olsen just outside the lane and quickly dribbled away from the basket and out beyond the 3-point line. Once there, a little pump fake freed him for an instant and he launched a shot that rattled around the rim and dropped through for the game-winner.

“Overtime would’ve been tough,” admitted Fox Lane head coach Mike Tomassi, whose team had been struggling to hold off the Indians despite a 10-point lead with just five minutes remaining. “I’d still take us in overtime, but I didn’t want to go to overtime. Their train was rolling full speed ahead. We were kind of trying to stop it. Glad Will made that shot.”

The teams were tied at 11-11 after the opening quarter, but after Crerend connected on a 3-point shot from the right elbow early in the second period to give the Foxes a 15-14 edge, they never trailed again. His trey began a 9-0 spurt that opened up a seven-point lead. Two free throws by Crerend with four seconds remaining in the half gave the Foxes a 26-19 lead at the break.

Back-to-baskets by sophomore forward Oliver Shevick and point guard Jordan Alvarado at the start of the third quarter stretched the Foxes’ advantage to 11 points. With just under two minutes left in the period, an old-fashioned 3-point play by John Rocco Trumpour gave Fox Lane its largest lead of the night, 34-22.

But the quarter ended with the Indians’ Shane Martinsen and Mason DiFalco hitting 3-point shots to slice the Foxes’ big lead in half. Shevick provided a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to start the final period and give Fox Lane a bit more breathing room. With exactly five minutes remaining, Olsen, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists and was named to the all-tournament team, scored on a put-back that gave the Foxes a 43-33 lead.

But the Foxes then went scoreless for more than four minutes while John Jay ran off 10 consecutive points, knotting the contest with 55 seconds to go as Charles Murphy made both ends of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity.

“We just have to execute a little better on the offensive end,” said Tomassi, looking back on his team’s nearly disastrous fourth-quarter scoring drought. “We get a little stagnant. You know, we’re a young team playing-wise, even for the seniors. We have a lot of underclassmen playing and we just have to trust each other and trust the system.”

With the score even at 43 apiece, Crerend turned into the Foxes’ Mr. Clutch and finally ended the Indians’ big run. He got a skip pass from Olsen and proceeded to swish a 3-pointer from the left wing with 37 seconds on the clock. But just 17 seconds later, the Indians’ Martinsen tied the game again with a 3-point basket from the right corner, setting the stage for the last-second heroics from Crerend.

“We had a play drawn up,” said Crerend, who had scored nearly half the Foxes’ points in a big win over Uniondale one week earlier. “It was supposed to come to me in the corner, which it did. And then Olsen was supposed to cut to the hoop. They defended it well, face-guarded Josh. I really didn’t have an angle to give it to him. I don’t know. I just let it go and it went in.”

“Will, he’s the man,” said Tomassi. “He plays hard, he’s gritty. For what he lacks maybe in physical gifts and tools, he just makes up with heart. The kid doesn’t stop. He made some big shots tonight and that’s what real athletes do. Real athletes don’t get nervous in the moment. They step up and rise to the occasion, and he did a fantastic job tonight doing that.”

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