A special guest was seen on the Kings Park team bus Saturday along the ride to Amityville. Actually, former Kingsmen coach Brian Carey became a virtual traveler, addressing these boys basketball players via FaceTime.
"(Carey) said, ‘You’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to go on runs. You’re going to have down points. But it’s how you respond. That’s a signal of how tough you are,’ " senior guard Nick Svolos said.
Kings Park then went out and sent a strong signal, responding with a good answer to every Amityville run. The Kingsmen pulled away for a 61-45 win in a Suffolk County Conference III semifinal — the program’s first victory at Amityville since the 2006-07 season.
So coach Chris Rube’s 8-1 team will play at Hills West for the title at noon Sunday, the closing act to this abbreviated season, courtesy of the pandemic.
"It was almost no season," Svolos said. "Coach always says, ‘We have to peak at the right time.’ I think now is the time."
Svolos hit five threes en route to a game-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Jack Garside had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
"We have a really resilient group," Garside said.
Amityville (7-1) also showed some resiliency, cutting a 13-point deficit to 19-15 at the break.
"I’ve got a lot of young kids," coach Gordon Thomas said. "We got them some exposure playing in a big game."
But Kings Park built another 13-point lead late in the third. Amityville countered with a 12-2 run, chipping the margin down to 36-33 early in the fourth on a jumper by Myles Goddard, good for two of his team-high 17 points.
The Kingsmen responded this time with a 15-5 burst, making it a 13-point game again. Jordan Shapiro had five points and a nifty assist during that stretch.
"The strength of our team is the fact that they play together," Rube said. "They play hard. They play smart. I think a big part of it, too, is that they understand and respect the tradition within the Kings Park basketball program."
They had Amityville running uphill after the first quarter, ending it with a 17-4 advantage. Svolos scored 12 on four threes, and the Kingsmen’s man-to-man defense ruled.
"It was horrible," Thomas said. "We dug too deep of a hole."