It took less than seven minutes for Joe Rende to bring the home crowd to its feet.
Following a late first-quarter baseline floater, the Babylon forward proceeded to furiously swat a shot attempt in the paint and concluded the frenetic sequence with a hard-fought rebound. After ripping the ball down and drawing a foul, Rende roared in celebration, as the crowd rose and followed suit in appreciation of his relentless effort.
Although it was a fairly early dose of energy delivered by Rende, he understood the moment’s significance for Babylon in a 65-50 non-league boys basketball victory over Greenport on Friday night.
“It was nice to get a little spark early in the game,” said Rende, who finished with 15 points. “It’s hard for them to come back, especially against a team like us. You just try to jump on them early and I tried to help out any way I could.”
“We let him lead us and just rode his back,” Babylon coach Chris Morra said.
Babylon (5-0) also received balanced performances from Aidan LaRock and Gregg Forstner, who scored 16 points apiece. LaRock also dished out eight assists, and Forstner came up with 12 rebounds.
“This was a good win for us,” Morra said. “We knew Greenport was a really good team coming in.”
Greenport’s Jordan Fonseca converted a free throw with 2:05 remaining to cut the Babylon lead to 58-50, but the Panthers responded with two free throws, including one by Rende following his offensive rebound with 1:12 to go.
Free throws were key for the Babylon, which made 21 in comparison to 10 for Greenport (3-1). Forstner, however, wasn’t satisfied.
“We’ve gotta work on our free throws,” Forstner said.
LaRock limiting Porters guard Ahkee Anderson to just eight points also was crucial, as Anderson entered the matchup averaging 21.3 points.
“He has a lot of potential,” LaRock said. “I think he’ll play at the next level.”
Peter Szuchy’s floater with 55 seconds left in the second period put Babylon ahead 30-19 and the Panthers took a 30-20 advantage into halftime.
Babylon never trailed, asserting itself in the early moments behind Rende, who nailed a three-pointer from the left corner with 5:09 remaining in the first to put Babylon ahead 11-3.
Minutes later, he gave the crowd plenty of reasons to rise.
“If one or two guys can play with great energy and effort, it becomes contagious,” Rende said.”