The boys basketball players from Kings Park and Elmont stepped out of their gyms and into the big arena Monday night, and they won’t soon forget it.
Kings Park used 15 points from Matty Garside, 10 from Jon Borkowski and dynamic second-half defense to claim a 47-35 win at Nassau Coliseum.
So the Kingsmen remained perfect at 13-0. But this one was special, playing on MLK Day at this place, where the NBA G League Long Island Nets play and where Hall of Famer Julius Erving and the then-New York Nets clinched two ABA championships in the 1970s, not to mention the Islanders’ storied history here.
"Oh man, it’s really cool, especially we had a lot of people from the hometown," said Garside, a junior guard. " . . . The fact that professionals play on this court and you play on this court, it’s pretty cool."
The young Elmont team fell to 3-9, but took something from it as well.
"It was a good experience," said Osagie Ekhator, a sophomore forward who paced the Spartans with 10. "It was good to be out here with my friends. I had family watching for the first time in years."
This was a game three seasons in the making for Kings Park. Coach Chris Rube’s first attempt to play a team from Nassau here fell through two seasons ago. His second attempt got canceled last season because of the pandemic.
But Hastings Sanford, an account executive in ticket sales from the Long Island Nets, contacted him about trying again this season. Rube was going to play another Suffolk team, Glenn, which is coached by his brother-in-law, Charly Rogener. But that didn’t work out.
Enter Ryan Straub’s Spartans, who went 8-0 last season.
"We knew we were a good team from Suffolk Class A," Rube said. "We wanted to play a good team from Nassau Class A. So I reached out to Elmont. [Straub] loved the idea."
So here they were completing a triple-header. The Long Island Nets beat the Maine Celtics, 118-108. Then the Knox boys beat St. Mary’s, 59-56.
Then Kings Park began to take charge in more ways than one in the third quarter after the first half ended at 26-26.
The Kingsmen’s Brian Green and AJ Petraitis took charges in a period in which the team outscored the Spartans 12-0.
"I tried to get everybody in in the first half," said Rube, who used all 19 of his players. " . . . So then in the third quarter, we had our regular guys. There was a little more continuity. Defense is our calling card."
Garside hit a baseline jumper and a three from the right side, putting Kings Park up 38-26 entering the fourth quarter.
"A little bit of being a young team," Straub said. " . . . We lacked pace and we didn’t value the ball."
The margin quickly rose to 14. Ekhator snapped Elmont’s scoring drought at 11:28 with 1:20 gone in the fourth, nailing a three from the left side. The Spartans cut it to 42-35 with 2:24 left. But that’s as close as it got.
"This is incredible," Straub said, "It’s a great experience, we’re hoping [it’s] something the kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives."