Football players brought a dynamic to Babylon basketball team

Babylon's Raymond Wardell attempts a hook shot. (March Babylon's Raymond Wardell attempts a hook shot. (March 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- How do you turn a football school into a basketball school? With help from the football players, of course.

The Babylon basketball team may have fallen short of its first state championship Saturday night -- losing to Watervliet, 72-60, in overtime -- but this season still will be remembered as the best in program history.

It was a season in which Jake Carlock, Ray Wardell and five of their teammates joined an exclusive club of athletes who have won Long Island championships in football and basketball during the same year.

Carlock had nine points and nine rebounds in the final. But his primary responsibility on the basketball court is to guard the opposing team’s best offensive player, which is no surprise, considering he is a first-team All-Long Island cornerback on the football field, having recorded nine interceptions last season.

Call him Carlockdown.

“Both of them feel exactly the same,’’ he said of winning Long Island championships in both sports. “We put Babylon basketball back on the map, and it will be there for a long time."

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Before this season, the Babylon football team had captured 10 county titles during the basketball team’s 26-year county title drought. After the basketball team’s first game of the season, a 64-50 loss to North Babylon on Dec. 4, it looked as if that trend would continue.

Then the football players who were fresh off their LIC win -- Alec Zamet, Kevin Smith, Andrew Watson, Jeann Cruz and Stephen Schweitzer are the others -- got used to wearing shorts and a tank top instead of pads and a helmet.

The team jelled and Babylon won 22 of its next 24 games, bringing the Panthers within one win of the program’s first state championship.

Wardell, a 6-5 forward (and wide receiver), scored 18 points -- including nine in the fourth quarter to help Babylon force overtime -- and grabbed 10 rebounds in the final.

"The overall ride this whole year has been incredible," he said. “Going from winning the LIC in football to going to states in basketball. We never thought we’d go this far and it’s been an incredible ride. I’m so glad I’ve been a part of it. We brought Babylon basketball back to where it should be."

So while Babylon likely always will be a football school, the basketball program made a name for itself this season . . . with the help of some football players, of course.

“This team," Babylon coach Chris Morra said, “brought a whole new excitement to the village.’’ 

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