Northport falls in state Class AA semifinal

Northport's Austin Marchese runs against Donny Powell. (March Northport's Austin Marchese runs against Donny Powell. (March 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- Luke Petrasek stood teary-eyed outside the Northport locker room. But one day, perhaps when the 6-9 center is squeezing into a tuxedo, he'll look back on this season and smile.

"They'll be in each other's weddings one day," Northport coach Andrew D'Eloia said of his players. "They've created great friendships, and that's really what it's all about."

The message after Saturday's 60-46 loss to New Rochelle in the state Class AA semifinals was that although they no longer are teammates, they'll always be friends.

Friends with one very memorable season to look back on.

"It's tough to lose, but I'm happy we made it here," said Petrasek, who had 22 points and eight rebounds. "It means the world. These guys are my brothers. They'll be with me the rest of my life."

With Northport trailing by 10 to open the fourth quarter, Petrasek drove the lane and converted the layup plus the foul for a three-point play to trim the deficit to 41-34. On the ensuing possession, he drained a corner three to pull the Tigers within four with 6:50 left.

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But Northport struggled to keep New Rochelle off the boards, allowing 13 offensive rebounds, and none was more demoralizing than Terrence Holden's three-point play on a putback that gave New Rochelle a 46-37 lead. Thomas Kennedy answered with a three-pointer to pull Northport within six, but that was as close as the Tigers would get.

Joe Clarke, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and eight steals, drained a runner in the lane and then threw down a one-handed dunk off a full-court pass to make it 50-40 with 3:05 to go.

Khalil Edney, who gained overnight fame with his miraculous winning 60-foot shot at the buzzer in the regional semifinals, added 13 points and four rebounds for New Rochelle (16-9). But Edney refuses to believe it was a "miracle" that has the Huguenots on the brink of a state championship.

"I don't think it's because we're a team of destiny," he said. "We worked hard every day in practice and every game, and in my eyes we deserve to be here. That shot was just one shot. We just need to stay focused and get one more win."

New Rochelle began to establish its lead in the second quarter, during which Clarke tipped away a pass, picked up his dribble in the paint, went around his back to elude a defender and threw down a two-handed slam to open a 23-16 lead with 3:10 left in the half.

Austin Marchese scored seven of his nine points in the first quarter for Northport, which finished the season 22-3 after not qualifying for the playoffs last season.

"It was a combination of things," D'Eloia said of Northport's turnaround. "We have talented kids. They worked hard, they executed. They believed that they could win every game. To go 22-3 is a pretty good year for Northport, and we're really proud of that."

When those wedding bells finally sound, the former players will reminisce about that day when Petrasek and Matt Smith posted double-doubles to bring home Northport's first county championship since 1995.

Or they'll re-enact the play when Michael Milligan converted the go-ahead three-point play in the final minute of the Long Island championship game against Baldwin.

Asked what he'll remember most about this season, Petrasek had a brief response:

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"Playing with my best friends."

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