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C.J. Williams leads Friends Academy to Nassau Class B boys basketball final

C.J. Williams scored 12 points and blocked three shots for Friends Academy, somewhat modest stats. Yet he dominated Monday’s Nassau Class B semifinal against Locust Valley by being himself, a 6-8, 330-pound tower of strength at both ends of the floor, especially the defensive end.

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“We can’t really get deep in the paint,” Locust Valley coach Andrew Siegel said. “We’ve got to take those 16-footers. He changed the game.”

Williams and the top-seeded Quakers claimed a 54-38 win over the No. 4 Falcons at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex.

Gabe Ferencz scored 19 points and Malachi Polson added 15, for Friends Academy (18-2), which earned a return trip to Hofstra for the 6:30 p.m. championship game March 2 against second-seeded Malverne (18-2).

“As long as we play together … I feel like the sky’s the limit for us,” Williams said.

The guy closest to the sky did his part.

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“He’s just such a difference, his presence alone,” coach Matt Johnsen said of Williams.

“I feel like I set the presence in the middle,” Williams said, “locking down the rim on defense, making sure that they have to shoot those hard threes, and then on offense really open up the game for my shooters.”

So what’s special about the Quakers besides their junior center?

“We have a little bit of everything,” Johnsen said. “We have good role players. We have size. We have depth. We have good kids coming off the bench. We have athleticism. We can defend. … C.J. cleans all our mistakes up.”

The game plan was to feed Williams in the post from the start. He scored the first two baskets of the game.

Then Ferencz and Polson began hurting Locust Valley inside and out. Both scored seven points in the first eight minutes as Friends Academy took a 20-2 lead.

“I think the nerves hit us a little bit,” Siegel said. “… Once we came out and got used to everything, we hung with them.”

Silvio Tasso scored four of his team-high 13 and the Falcons outscored the Quakers 14-10 in the second quarter to chip the deficit to 30-16.

But Friends Academy opened up its advantage to as many as 25 in the third. Locust Valley was bound for an 11-9 finish.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group to coach,” Siegel said. “Great kids.”

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