As the only returning starter from a team that won the first state championship in school history, Harborfields' Jon Patron knew he'd have to assume a larger role in his senior year if he wanted his team to defend its league, county and state titles in Class A.
"Last year, I was just a piece of the puzzle," Patron said.
This season, he is the biggest piece of all, a long-armed, quick-jumping, inside-outside forward who presents opponents with an unsolvable puzzle.
Patron, despite picking up two fouls in the first minute, scored 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead Harborfields to a 61-52 victory over Kings Park Tuesday night in a game that clinched the Suffolk League V title for the Tornadoes (12-3, 11-0 in league). The host Kingsmen fell to 11-6, 8-3.
"He took it personal that he was the only starter returning and people didn't think we'd be that good," Harborfields coach Chris Agostino said. "He's worked hard to make each game special."
It didn't start out very special after two possessions and two fouls on the 6-3 Patron. "Coach was yelling at me and it got under my skin. That made me play harder and it made me play smarter," Patron said.
Agostino left Patron on the court, and he responded by scoring 11 straight points in the first quarter, including two of his four three-pointers, as Harborfields grabbed a 21-10 lead. Patron sat for much of the second quarter and Kings Park closed the gap to 32-28 at halftime.
Patron began the third quarter with a step-back three and a putback and later contributed two free throws after yet another offensive rebound -- he snatched 11 -- as Harborfields entered the fourth with a 44-35 advantage.
Hot-shooting Johnny Li (23 points, three of his five treys in the fourth quarter) brought the Kingsmen to within 51-46 with 3:58 left, but Patron put the game away with a hanging floater in the lane, a putback off a missed free throw and the exclamation point, another step-back three that made it 59-47 with 1:17 left.
"I had the perimeter game last year, but it wasn't needed," Patron said. "This year, I'm hungry to score and hungry to get the ball off the glass."
He's winning the Hunger Games.