You could hear players saying survive and advance as the procession started for the Manhasset boys basketball team. The team didn’t just survive, they thrived. That earned them a festival fit for champions.
"It was such a warm welcome, coming back to school, coming back to the town,” Liam Buckley said. “To go in the town today and see how the community is proud of you, it feels really good.”
Manhasset captured the state Class A boys basketball championship by defeating New Hartford, 62-51, on March 20. As the champions proceeded down Plandome Road they were embraced by the backdrop of an American flag and the sounds of cheers from a proud community.
“I never thought it would be something this big, them shutting down Plandome Road with a big American flag for us,” Liam Connor said as a group of small children crowded him. “Having the whole community behind us is an amazing feeling.”
The team was loaded into the back of a truck with their coach George Bruns walking ahead, surrounded by Bagpipe players. Behind the team, two fire trucks followed, blaring their horns in revelry.
“I’m on cloud nine, cloud 99,” Bruns said with a laugh. “We had talent, played hard defense, shared the ball, and it happened, we pulled it off.”
The procession ended at the school, where the team filled a stage set up for their arrival. Nassau County Executive Bruce A. Blakeman spoke at length congratulating the team. He concluded by handing coach Bruns a citation and “declaring this day Manhasset boys basketball day.”
“This makes you want to cry, because it’s a moment that you never expected,” Bruns said. “Seeing people cheering us on and sharing in the joy of winning the whole thing, it was spectacular.”
After playing only three games a season ago, this was certainly an uphill climb. When they found themselves down 16-0 to Garden City in the Nassau Class A championship things seemed bleak, but the team never wavered.
“We play basketball because we love it,the kids on the team have fun together,” Connor said. “For us to bring a championship back to Manhasset, it feels unreal."