BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — One journey ended for Center Moriches, but perhaps it’s the start of another one.
“We’ll be back,” Red Devils coach Nick Thomas said after his young team, which started only one senior, was soundly beaten by Westhill, 71-58, on Friday night in a state Class B semifinal at Maines Arena. “Sometimes you’ve just got to go through it to understand.”
What Center Moriches (21-5) went through was an impressive motion offense that produced 17 layups, many of the back-door variety, for Westhill (24-1), which will play for the state title Saturday night.
“They did a great job moving the ball and they wore us down with some back doors,” Thomas said. “We got off to a little of a slow start, and you can’t do that against a good team. It makes it hard to come back.”
The Red Devils stuck around for one quarter, with Tyiquon Nix (19 points) hitting a three-pointer from the wing and a driving layup to make it 13-10 after one.
But Sean Dadey scored nine of his 22 points in the second quarter as the Warriors sped to a 37-20 advantage at the break.
“I felt we could’ve done a lot better,” said Nakia Durham, the only starting senior, who scored seven points in his final high school game. “We have some inexperienced guys and we came out flat.”
Those inexperienced guys included Nix, one of three sophomore starters along with David Falco and Sean Braithwaite (nine points), plus junior Troy Goode (16 points). They are the reason Thomas is optimistic about the program’s future.
“You can’t teach experience, but you can learn from it,” he said. “A staple of our program is that ‘Everybody E-A-Ts.’ That stands for Effort, Attitude, Trust. I’ve never had to coach attitude.”
Which is why Center Moriches players were diving for loose balls and fighting for rebounds in the fourth quarter of a game that was out of reach after three, with Westhill cruising to a 58-36 advantage. Kameren Jackson had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors.
“This was a learning experience,” Nix said. “They had good ball movement and we couldn’t keep up. But we’re only losing two [seniors], so hopefully we can come back here again.”
The Red Devils could be seeing Westhill again next year, as the perennially powerful Syracuse-area school started three juniors.
“Everybody has their day,” Durham said, choking up. “We had ours in the regional final [a 72-57 victory over Spackenkill last Saturday].
“Today, the lights were shining on Westhill.”