Bayport-Blue Point boys basketball team felt the bitter taste of disappointment after missing the county playoffs by one game with a 5-7 league record in 2011-2012.
With eight new varsity players on a roster of 11, coach Kyle Black had an inexperienced team that showed promise as the season went on.
Now comes the new season and the hard knocks of the last one are paying dividends early, as Bayport-Blue Point is off to a 3-1 start after defeating Whitman, 55-45, in the final of the Islip Booster Club Tournament Friday night.
"These guys were key players last year, but they were young and inexperienced and now that experience is paying off," Black said. "We learned a lot last year."
"These guys" would include Dylan Adams, who led Bayport-Blue Point with 17 points, and Conner Panzner and Lucas Jenks, who were all named to the all-tournament team. Panzner contributed 11 points and Jenks added eight.
"It's been great preparation for us going up against good competition and being able to play well," Black said. "It definitely prepares us and shows that we can play well."
Bayport-Blue Point led throughout, but never could seem to put away the Wildcats until the end.
Adams scored six of his points in the fourth quarter and was 4 for 4 from the free-throw line down the stretch, ensuring that Whitman never got any closer than four points in the final period.
The Phantoms controlled the tempo of the game with the help of Panzner, who sparked the team to easy fast-break buckets and layups with his penetration. Bayport-Blue Point didn't make a single three-point basket and depended on those inside looks to maintain the lead.
Dalton Prendergast defended the interior well and totaled four blocks.
With only one game remaining before Bayport-Blue Point begins league play, the Phantoms are proving to be a tougher team to handle than last year.
"They got a lot of key playing time last year and it was a learning experience and they're showing a lot of improvement," Black said. "We expect them to continue to improve and this should just be the beginning of what could be a great year."