By MARK HERRMANN email@example.com
If there were a trophy awarded to the winner of this rivalry game, which would not be a bad idea, Hofstra's Dion Nesmith would have been the one holding it longest and highest. High enough to match the apex of his jump on the shot that won it.
"The kid jumped 14 feet in the air, shot it over two guys. He made a great play. Got to give them the tip of the hat," said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, who could only shake his head after Nesmith's pull-up jumper in heavy traffic from the foul line with 1.6 seconds left gave Hofstra a 66-65 win and marked a rousing comeback in a rivalry that was dormant for six years.
That was six years too long, judging by the electricity from a crowd of 2,726 at Hofstra and by the intensity of the two Long Island teams. It sure looked as though whoever had the last possession would win, Roland Nyama's desperation shot at the buzzer notwithstanding.
In fact, the hero's role seemed to fit nicely on Stony Brook's Jameel Warney, who received a nice entry pass from Carson Puriefoy and hit a layup with nine seconds left for the last of his game-high 26 points (to go with a game-high 14 rebounds). The only problem was that it left Hofstra with time to set up a play.
The Pride did just that, except the play was designed for Juan'ya Green (22 points). He was guarded heavily, so Nesmith (18 points) -- who had made a reverse layup with 33 seconds left to put Hofstra ahead -- took matters into his own hands.
"I saw the clock was running down, I just went to go make a play and I was fortunate enough to make it," Nesmith said. For the record, he thought his elevation was only his usual three feet. Joe Mihalich, his coach, said, "I thought it was four."
It was enough. As Warney said, "He made a great play, he drove the middle, a pull-up jump shot. It was good defense, but it was his night."
Mihalich was touched that it came from Nesmith, a sixth-year senior who has been at three colleges (Northeastern and Monmouth previously) and came to Hofstra last season when the program was desperate for players. He isn't starting this season. "But he's a finisher," Mihalich said. "Nobody finished a game better than him: a game-winning shot against one of your rivals."
"Rivalry" was not hyperbole. There was palpable intensity. Stony Brook fans roared when Warney scored 10 consecutive Seawolves points in the second half. Hofstra's fans, who carried the day, let out an explosion of sound when Brian Bernardi made a three-pointer and a free throw that tied it with 3:23 left.
"I think there's just a feel," Mihalich said. "The students at Hofstra all have friends who go to Stony Brook and the students who go to Stony Brook all have friends who go to Hofstra."
All of them saw quite a show. "It was a heck of a game tonight," Pikiell said. "You've got to give them the tip of the hat. They got the home game first. We'll have them at home next year."
And, with any luck, Long Island will have them both for years to come.