It took all of the strength, depth and resilience Harborfields could muster to beat Bayport-Blue Point in the Suffolk Class A final at Farmingdale State Sunday.
The final score was 69-55 in favor of Harborfields, which scored 29 points in the fourth quarter en route to winning the school's first county championship.
But the score didn't come close to describing the nature of the game. The Phantoms led early in the fourth quarter, and bodies flew all over the place as each team tried to outmuscle the other on both ends of the court.
"We knew we were going to have to go up and finish strong every time because their big guys are good and physical," Harborfields junior forward Nick Fessenden said. "But we thought we would be able to stop their big guys because of our experience and depth."
Fessenden led top-seeded Harborfields (19-2) with 23 points and seven rebounds. He had help in the paint, as the rest of the Tornadoes' frontcourt rotation of Matt Curry (nine points) and Eric McLean (eight) made things tough for the second seed.
"McLean really stepped up after Curry got in foul trouble," Fessenden said. "For those two to step up in a championship game means a lot."
Bayport-Blue Point's Reid Drzal said it was one of the more physical games he'd been in this season. "Their big guys were banging with us all game. In the end, you have to do what you can to win the game," said the 6-6 senior, who led the Phantoms (17-4) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. "But they just kept sending different guys in every three or four minutes."
It was tough going for both sides in the first half as every layup and jump shot was contested. With few fouls called in the first half, the physical nature of the game continued to increase.
It forced Harborfields guard Matt McLeod, who finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and eight assists, to adjust his game in the second half.
"I was struggling with the jumper early, so I just tried to take it to the rack in the second half," McLeod said. "When we were going for layups, they were fouling us and the [referees] weren't really calling it. So I saw Nick cutting and I just gave it to him or anyone else cutting."
McLeod's statement was validated in the fourth quarter after two straight baskets by Bayport-Blue Point's Brandon Mincher gave the Phantoms a 43-42 lead with 6:12 remaining.
McLeod scored on a driving layup and then fed Curry, who converted a three-point play to give the Tornadoes a 47-43 lead with 5:06 left. That began a game-ending 27-12 run by Harborfields.
"When we win, we win as a family," Harborfields coach Chris Agostino said. "The whole community will share in this win."
Harborfields will face Wyandanch in the small school championship at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Farmingdale. After that, it's on to the Long Island Class A championship game.
"This is our first county championship," Fessenden said. "We've never won anything except the league title. We're going to remember this for a long time."