Chris Zannino of Carle Place celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer...

Chris Zannino of Carle Place celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer during a Nassau Class B semifinal at Farmingdale State College on Friday. Credit: David Meisenholder

James McKeough is 19. His previous head-coaching experience in basketball before Friday night? Try intramurals at Carle Place.

This is his first season as an assistant coach with the Carle Place varsity boys team. He played three seasons for the Frogs before graduating in 2022, then served as a volunteer coach with the junior varsity last season.

But here he was at Farmingdale State College, running the varsity for the first time, and in a Nassau Class B semifinal, no less.

McKeough was filling in for coach John Cantwell, who picked up two technicals in the regular-season finale and had to sit out a game.

“I was really nervous the whole time coming up,” Mc-Keough said. “But I was well prepared because Coach Cantwell had us all well prepared — me, Chris [Kelly, another assistant], all these guys. And he had confidence in us, which really helped. And Coach [Conor] Reardon really helped me on the bench with his experience.”

Everything worked out fine for McKeough. Chris Zannino scored 20 points, Ryan Leary added 13 and second-seeded Carle Place held No. 3 East Rockaway to 11 points after halftime in a 51-29 victory.

The Frogs (13-8) will face top-seeded West Hempstead for the championship at 8 p.m. Friday at Farmingdale State. The Rams beat them twice during the regular season.

“We’ll be ready,” Zannino said.

A 10-point Carle Place lead shrunk to five at the break after the Frogs scored all of five points in the second quarter.

Then Zannino gave them a lift — jumper, steal and layup, basket off an offensive rebound.

His six points in Carle Place’s 7-0 burst in the first 1:51 of the third quarter made it a 30-18 game.

“I was like, we’ve got to turn it up here,” Zannino said.

The senior guard capped his eight-point third quarter with a layup in the final minute, and the Frogs took a 35-25 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The Rocks, who were led by Antonio Buzzetta’s 10 points, were held to two field goals in the third quarter and two in the fourth.

“They made a nice adjustment going man-to-man,” East Rockaway coach Paul Collins said.

McKeough called it “really a game-changer for us.”

The Rocks finished 6-15, a step forward after going 1-19 in 2022-23.

“It was definitely a growth season,” Collins said, “and we’re expecting bigger things even next year.”

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