Benjamin Haug of Smithtown East drives to the basket during...

Benjamin Haug of Smithtown East drives to the basket during a Suffolk Class AA boys basketball quarterfinal playoff game against Hauppauge in St. James on Saturday, February 24, 2024. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The teams began to separate in the second quarter of this postseason Saturday matinee. The Bulls from Smithtown East ran away with those eight minutes on their home court against Hauppauge and headed in the direction of a Smithtown vs. Smithtown semifinal.

“We talk about playing fast and we played a little faster on defense,” Smithtown East coach Al Chandler said.

The fourth-seeded Bulls then withstood a rally en route to defeating the No. 5 Eagles, 65-49, in their Suffolk Class AA boys basketball quarterfinal.

Smithtown East (16-5) will face top-seeded Smithtown West (20-1) in the semifinals on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Longwood High School.

West beat East by 14 points in January and by nine earlier this month.

“Huge rivalry,” said Smithtown East senior guard Ben Haug, who scored 24 points against Hauppauge. “We’re excited. We lost twice to them in the regular season. Hopefully we can use what we learned from those games to perfect what we need to do come Tuesday.”

Smithtown East and Smithtown West are both searching for their first county title.

“I think we’ve shown that we can [win it],” Haug said. “We beat Hills East this year and … once we knew what we were doing, we gave [West] a great second game.”

Smithtown East led Hauppauge, 18-15, after one quarter. The Bulls then scored the next 11 points, including six by Nico Skartsiaris and five by James Burton. They proceeded to outscore the Eagles 19-3 in the second quarter to open a 37-18 cushion at the half.

“We wanted to cause chaos,” Haug said. “We were trying to trap them as much as we could.”

Hauppauge coach Brad Hughes also credited Smithtown's work on the offensive glass.

“Their second opportunities off the rebound killed us,” Hughes said.

The lead swelled to 23 early in the third. But Cole Wood, who scored 17 points for the Eagles, made two three-pointers from the left corner to highlight an 18-6 run that sliced Hauppauge's deficit to 47-36.

But the Bulls built the margin back up to 17 with 5:15 remaining on a three-pointer by Haug, and Hauppauge didn't get closer than 11 from there.

“The kids played really well today,” Chandler said. “It was fun to watch them play.”

The Eagles finished their season at 16-5.

“Great season,” Hughes said. “Obviously, you want to [go] longer. You never want it to end. But a great bunch of kids, always worked. There was never one game I had to say, ‘You guys have got to play harder.’ ”

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