At 5-5, Brandon Providence is the Stony Brook School’s little engine that could. At 6-6, Jyles Etienne is the big, bad wolf. The long and short of this tale is a historic journey.
Providence scored 16 points and made four steals and Etienne had 13 points, 12 rebounds and five game-changing blocks as the Bears defeated Millbrook, 45-27, yesterday to win the state Class C regional for the first time.
“It feels good to say that,” said Etienne, who was one of several feel-good storylines that emerged from the victory that sends Stony Brook (14-10) into the state Class C semifinals on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Binghamton.
Mac Bohuny, a senior co-captain with Providence, contributed seven points, seven assists, eight rebounds and four steals. Coach Mike Hickey earned the elusive trip to the state’s final four after 29 years at SBS, including five straight county titles. They all ended in heartbreak in the state regionals until yesterday.
“We remembered losing by one at Pace [University] last year in the regionals,” Providence said of a crushing 35-34 loss. “I told everyone, ‘When we get back next year, it will be different.’ “
Etienne was the biggest difference-maker in the third quarter when Stony Brook, which led only 21-18 at halftime, dominated Millbrook (16-7) 15-1. Etienne registered three blocks in the period and was such an intimidator in the paint that at times Millbrook seemed afraid to shoot from anywhere near the hoop.
“When they see me and they just pass it, that’s a positive effect,” Etienne said. “I try to be a presence on the court.”
Some presence. After Millbrook’s Colby Whalen hit one of two free throws 37 seconds into the third, his team did not score again in the quarter. Etienne began the deluge with a spin move inside and also contributed a lefty layup off a nice feed from Emil Vaughn.
In one telling sequence, Etienne blocked a shot and Providence outhustled a Millbrook player to the loose ball and turned it into a layup. When Providence penetrated to hit a floater that beat the third-quarter buzzer for a 36-19 lead, the Bears were poised to punch their tickets to Binghamton.
“My job as point guard is to make sure everyone is in the right spot on the court,” Providence said. “Usually I try to get the ball to our shooters but against their zone I had to stretch it out and get inside to make more plays.”
Etienne made more plays than the stat sheet could account for, especially after sitting out the entire second quarter with two fouls. “Jyles was the X-factor. We didn’t know what he would do when he went back in the game,” Hickey said. “He had a number of huge blocks in third quarter plus you can’t track alters and intimidations.”
Millbrook opened the fourth quarter with a basket, but the Bears scored seven straight points to make it 43-21 and cap an incredible stretch when they allowed only three points in more than 10 minutes. It wasn’t all Etienne’s rejections, either. Bohuny and Providence made their steals by cutting off passing lanes. “Brandon is a tremendous defender and he’s my coach on the floor,” Hickey said. “His energy transfers to everyone else. He may be only 5-5, but he has the heart of a lion.”
Hear them roar, Bears that is.