The final buzzer had sounded, the quick postgame celebration had ended and the Kings Park boys basketball team had gone through the handshake line with rival Harborfields. The Kingsmen’s 66-57 Suffolk Class A quarterfinal win in their Snelder Gym was in the books. And so they huddled in front of their bench and around coach Chris Rube.
Rube fired off six quick questions to his charges and they answered each with a single word in unison: “Hard;” “Smart;” “Tough;” “Defense;” “Champions;” “Together.”
“Those are the words that make up our little motto,” senior center Andrew Bianco said. “Those are the things we have to do. If we do them we can be champions. And we have to do them all together.”
It also proved the blueprint to second-seeded Kings Park (15-6) overcoming some serious second-quarter adversity to get the victory. Sophomore point guard Jack Garside had 21 points and Bianco 17 points when the dust cleared, but each admitted to being a little stunned after the Tornadoes (15-7) raced back from a six-point deficit in the early part of the quarter to blow by and take a 29-23 advantage into halftime.
It was a matter to be taken seriously, as the two teams split their Suffolk A-IV regular- season contests.
“We’ve been tested all year to be ready for moments like that,” Bianco said. “We got the wake-up call when they took the lead and we didn’t let that stop us from what we were trying to do.”
“At that point we had to start focusing on the defense and wait for [our run],” Garside said. “Our team is guys who believe in each other and that’s why we didn’t come apart right there.”
Before the third quarter was over, the Kingsmen had started their run by scoring on their last four possessions. The 6-4 Bianco scored on the first two and Garside made a total of five free throws on the last two. Those were five in his 13-for-15 free-throw shooting effort and they turned a five-point deficit into a 43-39 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Kingsmen scored the first four points of the final quarter and it was never closer than a two-possession game after that.
“One of the hallmarks of good teams is that they can deal with adversity and we did that tonight,” Rube said. “I know that I had to play Andrew with four fouls for a lot of minutes, but he has the poise to do it.”
Harborfields had to play hamstrung with 6-5 Mike McDermott limited by picking up three fouls in the game’s first 11 minutes. Still it struck for the lead in that second quarter behind the play of Jordan Robinson (18 points), Joey Mitchell (11 points) and Pat Williamson (nine points).McDermott finished with 13 points.
Kings Park hosts No. 6 Mount Sinai, an upset winner over No. 3 Hills West, in a Friday semifinal at 5:30 p.m. This is the Kingsmen’s second straight year in the semis.
“I like that we’ve come as far as we did last year, but I think we have more left,” Bianco said. “We believe it’s possible. We just have to keep doing what we do.”