Hauppauge’s Macai John and Brentwood’s Zatai Townsend never had the opportunity to join forces on the AAU circuit, so when Townsend saw John streaking down the court Sunday afternoon, he just had to go for it.
Townsend tossed up a perfect lob toward the rim. John then finished it emphatically with two hands.
It was just another fun moment at the Suffolk Police Athletic League’s first annual All-Star Exceptional Senior Boys Basketball Challenge championship game at Patchogue-Medford High School, where Townsend and John’s Smithtown team defeated South Fork, 81-78.
“It was really good,” said John, who finished with 18 points. “I wasn’t expecting him to throw it, but we got it. We definitely have a connection.”
South Fork made a late push but was unable to pull to within a single possession until Pierson’s Cecil Munshin made a deep three-pointer as time expired.
Kings Park’s Jon Borkowski contributed 11 points for Smithtown.
Townsend relished the opportunity to compete in the PAL’s new tournament.
“It means everything to me,” Townsend said. “The opportunity to come out and meet new people, create new friends on this team was great. It’s fun, competitive and all love.”
Riverhead’s TayShaun Hawkins led the way for South Fork with 21 points, while LeBron Napier of Southampton added 15 points.
The two sides went back and forth the majority of the second quarter after an 11-0 run capped off by a layup from Townsend put Smithtown ahead 20-16 with 6:35 left in the first half.
Smithtown closed out the half with a 7-2 spurt over the final two minutes, sparked by a pair of threes from Commack’s Jacob Rivera and Borkowski.
Hauppauge coach Brad Hughes coached Smithtown and was impressed with the chemistry his players displayed despite their previous unfamiliarity with each other.
“That was a fun event,” Hughes said. “The kids had a great time and played well together. A lot of them didn’t even really know each other and I’m really proud of them.”
The PAL also hosted a unified championship game prior to the boys game. The blue team defeated the white team, 40-36.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison was in attendance to present the awards. John Gallagher of Floyd was named MVP of the blue team, while Southampton’s Hunter Tuthill earned MVP for the white team.
“We knew the unified teams had to be included when we created this,” Suffolk PAL Director of Development Donald Yorie said. “Because those kids played their hearts out. And that’s what it’s about. Sports is about heart and teaching people how to move on in their lives and be positive citizens when they grow up."