So many people wanted to see Saturday’s high-noon shootout for the Suffolk IV boys basketball title that, according to Dominick Fontana, the athletic director for host Deer Park, more than 150 fans were turned away.
Bellport must have thought those fans sneaked in another entrance and took up residence in the low blocks.
“Put the entire community in the paint,” Deer Park coach John McCaffrey joked, describing his defensive strategy against Bellport’s powerful forward, Jarell White.
The Falcons settled for tough team defense that neutralized White early and sent them on their way to a solid 71-56 victory before a roaring overflow crowd of more than 800. Deer Park’s victory in the regular-season finale tied the two schools for the league championship at 11-1.
White, a junior, managed 21 points and 11 rebounds, both below his season averages, but struggled at the foul line, missing his first nine and going 3-for-18. “He’s a man-child, like Charles Barkley, and we have great respect for him,” McCaffrey said. “We were fortunate that he missed some foul shots. I thought, overall, we did a good job defensively. We tried to keep it out of his hands.”
Deer Park made up for an overtime loss to Bellport earlier this season and ended the Clippers’ 18-game winning streak. Garden City (18-0, 12-0 Nassau A-I) is Long Island’s only remaining unbeaten team.
“We came in super-hyped-up after that loss,” said Deer Park sophomore guard Malik Edmead, who was stellar with 26 points. “My jumper was working early and everything opened up. Once we got the lead, we were not going to lose it.”
Edmead hit a pair of three-pointers and scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Falcons (18-2) took control early, using a 9-0 burst to take a 21-7 lead. The Clippers (18-1) scored 10 straight points late in the second quarter, including a pair of putbacks by White and a three-pointer by Kyleim Robinson (11 points), to make it 32-21.
But the final five seconds of the half were costly for Bellport. Reserve A.J. Dench converted an offensive rebound and Edmead stole the inbounds pass and beat the buzzer for a 15-point halftime advantage that had the crowd roaring.
Senior forward Josh Pismeny scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter as Deer Park built a 22-point lead.
“We’ve been prepping for White ever since we lost to them,” Pismeny said. “He’s the best offensive rebounder I’ve ever played against, but we worked together to limit his touches.”
They didn’t need any extra help after all.