Growing up in the East African country of Rwanda, Chester Kayonga’s favorite NBA player was Kobe Bryant. But Kayonga, a 6-4 senior, didn’t begin playing basketball until he was a ninth grader.
He came to the United States as a sophomore to enroll at the Stony Brook School, a private institution, where coach Mike Hickey admitted, “I didn’t expect much.”
Kayonga is learning fast. He scored all 12 of his points in the second half Saturday, including nine during a game-changing 13-0 run, as Stony Brook defeated Pierson, 51-44, at Suffolk CCC-Selden to win the school’s fourth straight Suffolk Class C championship.
Stony Brook will face Bridgehampton in the Suffolk County tournament’s CD game on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood. The Bears also advance to a state Class C regional semifinal against Nassau’s only Class C team, East Rockaway, on March 1 at Suffolk CCC-Selden at 5:30 p.m.
“I looked at the scoreboard and I saw we were down. That was not acceptable,” Kayonga said of the Bears’ 30-27 deficit with 3:36 left in the third. “I told my teammates if they get me the ball they will get an assist.”
True to his word, Kayonga scored consecutive layups in transition to put Stony Brook (14-4) ahead 31-30 after three, and contributed a right-corner three followed by a steal and layup as the Bears scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to take a 40-30 lead with 4:58 left.
Sean Sloane led Pierson (9-10) with 24 points.
Jyles Etienne was a major defensive presence for the Bears with eight blocked shots. “That’s demoralizing for a team to make a good move to the basket and get nothing out of it,” Hickey said. “Jyles took away the lane in the second half. He was a force.”