ALBANY — At first the Albany Patroons needed someone to step up, and later they stepped in the paint with more authority. That combination led to a 108-100 win in Game 2 of the best-of-three TBL Northeast Division Finals series Friday at Washington Avenue Armory.
The deciding Game 3 will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Armory.
Patroons coach Will Brown — who was honored as the TBL’s Coach of the Year before tip-off — said his team’s layoff from earning a first-round bye hurt it in Game 1, when the Gambits won 91-83. And he said what he wanted the most out of his team Friday night was physicality.
He had to wait a while to get it. Good thing that guard Mike Williams was there until it came.
Williams, a 6-foot-3 guard who played at Rutgers, scored seven of his 13 first-half points in the first quarter, which Atlantic City (21-7) led 34-25. Atlantic City’s length and athleticism was troublesome for Albany’s offense. Also, the Gambits hardly missed a shot in that quarter.
The Patroons rallied to tie it for the first time in the second quarter at 34 on a 3-pointer by JC Show, and again at 36 on a seven-footer from Anthony Moe, but they couldn’t take the lead.
Furthermore, the Patroons were their own worst enemy by not getting key rebounds. Atlantic City’s Jaymeere Hadden hit a 3-pointer after John Green got three offensive rebounds in a row and found Hadden wide open to make it 43-36.
Late in the quarter, Hadden missed two free throws, but Jachai Simmons got the offensive rebound and got fouled, which resulted in two successful free throws for a 52-49 Gambits lead.
Still, despite never finding their rhythm, the Patroons (22-4) only trailed 54-51 at halftime.
“We had too many self-inflicted mistakes in the first half,” Brown said. “Playing hard and with great energy is important, but you have to do it with great poise.”
Who else but Williams scored the Patroons’ biggest basket of the third quarter — the 3-pointer that gave Albany its first lead, 60-58, with 8:25 left.
Though Albany lost the lead a couple of other times, it took the lead for good on an inside basket from 6-10 Jared Sam. That was the beginning of Albany’s assertion in the paint, and it helped the Patroons stretch the lead to 86-81 after three. Guard A.J. Mosby scored 11 in the third, but Sam scored nine in a late four-minute stretch, and the 6-10 Moe finally got on track in the paint, with seven points in the quarter.
“They’re a physical team, so we just had to match their energy,” said Sam, who finished with 18 points. “It gave us a little boost playing here at home.”
Albany kept the lead for most of the fourth, but found itself leading 101-100 with 1:18 left. But Williams found Trevis Wyche open in the corner, and Wyche buried a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left for the basket that essentially sealed it.
“I thought in the second half we did a better job,” Brown said. “The good thing is we have a lot we can clean up before tomorrow night’s game.”
Williams finished with a team-high 26 for Albany. Mosby added 21.
Brown knows Saturday’s game will be a tough one.
“And I do think that if we can get out of this series,” Brown said, “I think we can win this thing, but it’s a big if.”
Atlantic City 34 20 27 19 — 100
Albany 25 26 35 22 — 108
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