Four Long Island boys basketball teams have made it to the state semifinals in Binghamton. Now comes the tough part.
“We’re trying to put our city on the map,” said Brentwood guard Kenny Lazo. “We’re trying to come back victorious and make our city proud.”
Brentwood, along with Center Moriches and Greenport, looks to win its first state crowns this weekend while Manhasset is seeking its first title since 1986.
The Indians last advanced to the state semifinals through back-to-back Long Island Class AA championships in 2014 and 2015. The current core of the Indians team remembers seeing those squads led by Mike Almonacy, and pictured themselves doing the same.
“This is a dream,” Lazo said. “We were in middle school when we saw Mike and them go back-to-back and ever since then, we all played on the same team and we all talked about it. We said, ‘When we get to the high school level, we have to go to states and now we made our dream come true.’”
With a starting lineup of juniors Bryce Harris, Alan Houston, Romello Wright, Lazo and sophomore Jordan Riley, none of the players have the fear of walking off the court with a loss in their final high school game. But they aren’t thinking that way.
“We’re not surprised at all,” Lazo said. “We put in the hard work to get to this point and we believe in each other. When we get up to Binghamton, we are looking to take it all the way.”
The Indians) play Kingston in the Class AA semifinals Friday at 6:45 p.m., with the championship set for Saturday at 9 p.m.
“When it comes down to it, it’s really just about playing the basic game of basketball the way you were trained to play it and the way you are capable of playing it,” coach Anthony Jimenez said. “And I think if we stick to what we usually do, I think we have a very good shot.”
The Manhasset players will be the first to tell you they didn’t necessarily expect to be taking a bus up to Binghamton this weekend. But that doesn’t mean they are ready for the ride to finish.
“At the beginning of the season, I had a feeling we’d be going to counties,” said forward Tom Santella. “But I had no idea we’d be going upstate. I can’t believe it.”
With a five-senior starting lineup and a standout sixth man in sophomore Ahmad Crowell, the Indians have relied on incredible balance and sharing the ball in a Long Island Class A championship season. The all-senior lineup of Joe LoCurto, Chris Themelis, Louis Perfetto, John Mastando and Santella have played with each other since CYO basketball, dreaming of making their mark on the program as seniors.
“I never would have thought we’d be in this position,” Mastando said. “We’ve been playing together our whole lives, and this is actually a dream come true.”
“Going into this season, you could never believe you’d have such balance,” coach George Bruns said. “Someone every night took over and you never knew who was going to do it. As individuals, we were erratic at times, but one cylinder went down, another came on.”
Manhasset plays Poughkeepsie in the Class A semifinals Friday at 3 p.m., with the championship game Saturday at 7 p.m.
CENTER MORICHES (21-5)
The Red Devils have been giant slayers throughout the season, and look to take down a few more at the state championships.
After winning the Suffolk overall championship as a Class B team, knocking off Suffolk A champion Wyandanch and Suffolk AA champion Brentwood along the way, the Red Devils have a few more schools to cross off on their quest for the first state championship in program history.
First, Center Moriches has to knock off Lowville in the state semifinals Friday at 11:15 a.m. If they can do that, their reward will be either an undefeated Olean team, or Glens Falls, led by New York State’s all-time leading high school scorer, Joe Girard III, in the championship Saturday at 5:15 p.m.
Led by a tough defense, a strong senior class featuring a rare combination of size and all-around skill set by Micah Snowden and Sean Braithwaite and the shooting of Tyiquon Nix and David Falco, Center Moriches believes it has the ingredients to win a state championship.
“My kids are ready for any challenge but for us, it really just starts on the defensive end,” coach Nick Thomas said. “That’s our identity, that’s our makeup. That’s what we pride ourselves in and being able to translate our defense into offense.”
After losing in the Southeast Regional final and failing to reach Binghamton last year, Center Moriches opened the season with 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. practices, determined to make its season last as long as possible.
“I know for the upperclassmen, it’s something that’s been in the back of their mind every since,” Thomas said. “It left a bad taste in their mouth and has also been a little extra of a motivation factor in their preparation everyday and it shows in their leadership.”
If you’re searching for an entertaining team, look no further than Greenport. With a high-tempo offense, which has scored at least 85 points in 10 of its last 11 games and at least 90 points in eight of those contests, the Porters can push the ball with the best teams in the state — led by a backcourt of Ahkee Anderson and Jaxan Swann.
“Jaxan and Ahkee, they’ll pull up from anywhere any time,” coach Ev Corwin said. “The ‘3’ ball, you can really score a lot of points quick when they are doing that.”
And with a three-headed attack in Anderson, Jaxan Swann and forward Jude Swann, the Porters believe they can be the group that will always be remembered in Greenport.
“We obviously go as they go,” Corwin said. “I expect those three to have those games. They come out and they’re guns a blazing and they’re just a special group.”
Greenport, which lost in the state semifinals last year, plays Cooperstown in the semifinals Saturday at 10:45 a.m., with the championship set for Sunday at noon.
“We’re trying to make history at Greenport, be the first team to win a state championship,” Jaxan Swann said. “And I feel like this is a time we can do it. We just want to make a statement for us.”