Kyle LaGuardia and the four other starters for Smithtown West sat out the first and third quarters Saturday. No, this wasn’t punishment; rather it was a reward for a group of capable but recently inactive reserves.

“This was a non-league game and I wanted to reward the kids who’ve been practicing super hard since Nov. 15,” Smithtown West coach Mike Agostino explained. “They’ve played some, but we’ve had a couple of close games lately and I couldn’t get them in. This is my way of thanking them.”

LaGuardia was on board with the decision. “To me it was perfectly fine. They deserved it. We have a deep team and they’re all varsity ready,” he said.

But when an 11-point lead slipped away from the Bulls, the ball came to LaGuardia. The 6-4 forward scored eight of his 12 points in the final period as Smithtown West closed on a 16-7 run and posted a 56-45 non-league victory over Jericho in the first game of the annual Nassau-Suffolk Challenge at Uniondale High School.

Michael Gannon’s 14 points, 12 in the first quarter, for the alternate starters helped Smithtown West (11-1) build a 40-29 lead with 2:32 left in the third period. But Jericho (5-6) rallied against both subs and starters to tie it at 40 on a slithering layup by Tyler DeLuca with 6:20 left. DeLuca had sunk a long three on the previous possession.

That’s when LaGuardia turned the baseline into his personal runway. He converted a putback in traffic then soared down the baseline for an above-the-rim floater. Later in the fourth, LaGuardia twice more spun free for baseline layups as Smithtown West scored the final eight points.

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“Kyle is not a back-to-the basket player but he can put it on the floor and finish with either hand,” Agostino said.

And finish what a good group of teammates had started.