Shortly after Monday night's Suffolk Class AA final, Richard Altenord and his Half Hollow Hills West basketball teammates were led to a small classroom near the locker rooms at Farmingdale State.
Altenord was left shaking his head after the Colts' 80-60 loss to Brentwood. When the team got inside the classroom, he slumped into a chair with watery eyes and a look of disappointment.
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The classroom door closed. Seniors Josh Koval and Jonathan Faraci addressed the team with speeches.
The talking ended after about 10 minutes. The initial shocking realization that the season was over wore off somewhat. Altenord emerged from the classroom with his head held high, looking like a guy full of ambition and with an eye toward next season.
"We definitely think we'll be back," he said. "And there's a reason why I think we will be back, and that's that we never want to feel this feeling again. I know we'll be back."
Altenord is a junior forward. Kian Dalyrimple is a junior guard. Deven Williams also is a junior guard. Cameron Jordan is a sophomore forward. These four returning starters are big reasons, along with a young bench, why coach Bill Mitaritonna won't argue with Altenord's assessment.
"No question we think that can happen," Mitaritonna said. "The sky is the limit for this group. We just have to learn what we're going to do to get over this hump. I know they'll get better."
Hills West, using its athleticism, gave a spirited effort, limited turnovers and forced Brentwood into tough shots. But top-seeded Brentwood, which led by double figures for most of the second half, was just too good.
"We played against a team that definitely could win a state title this year," Mitaritonna said. "We played good against a great team . . . what can you do?"
Altenord scored 14 points. Justin Leonard, the team's lone senior starter, had 13. Dalyrimple scored 10 and Jordan added nine points and four blocks for the second-seeded Colts, who finished 19-3.
"This was the best assembly of guys I've ever had," said Mitaritonna, who has guided the Colts to two Long Island titles in 15 seasons. "Everyone checked their egos at the door in November. I loved this group and think this was our best group."
Next season, it could be even better.