BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The Manhasset boys basketball team didn’t want to leave the locker room after the game, because then it would become real.
The Indians’ starting five — all seniors — have been playing together since they were in elementary school. Whether they were winning or losing, they were changing the culture at Manhasset. And that’s exactly what coach George Bruns told his players after a 74-63 loss to Poughkeepsie in the state Class A semifinals at Maines Arena on Friday afternoon.
“I told them your tears of anguish will turn to cheers of joy once the sting of today wears off,” Bruns said. “They’ve done some things that will make a lifetime of memories. I couldn’t be prouder, more fortunate to coach a group like this. From No. 1 to No. 17.”
Afterward, Manhasset’s players and coaches were met by dozens of fans outside the locker room, looking to show their appreciation for everything the team accomplished.
“A lot of people doubted us,” Louis Perfetto said. “But we wanted to make our mark as a senior class.”
The senior lineup of Perfetto, Joe LoCurto, Chris Themelis, Tom Santella and John Mastando led the Indians to their first trip to the state semifinals since 1986 and finished at 21-4.
“It meant everything to us to come this far,” Santella said. “As 11th-graders, no one expected anything from us. It made us have a chip on our shoulder to do more and do everything we can, and the work we put in for that is how we came here.”
Santella had 16 points and sophomore Ahmad Crowell added 14 for Manhasset. Perfetto and LoCurto each scored 11 and Mastando had nine.
“That’s the thing about us,” Mastando said. “We don’t have a top scorer that leads the team every game. It’s someone different every game.”
Manhasset entered the postseason as a No. 4 seed, winning five postseason games on Long Island to advance to the state semifinals.
“Resilience, tenacity, you name it,” Bruns said. “This group had it.”
Poughkeepsie (24-3) outscored Manhasset 19-10 in the fourth quarter and never trailed in the second half, although the Indians tied the score twice in the stretch. Davontrey Thomas’ 21 points led Poughkeepsie.
“Today, we knew they were going to be a very big team,” Santella said. “We had a very difficult time rebounding and we started doing better job of that in the third quarter but a couple balls bounced the wrong way and a couple turnovers. We got unlucky on those.”
But what happened on the floor Friday won’t be what the players and coaches remember most about this season. They’ll think back to championships, and winning 21 games after totaling six victories in the 2015-16 season, and going 10-11 last year, losing in the first round of the playoffs as the No. 17 seed.
“We’ve been playing together since we were like 9, 10,” LoCurto said. “We worked so hard over the offseason, we knew what we wanted to do, and just to see it all come together, it was special.”
“It’s been a heck of a ride,” Themelis said. “These four seniors here, they will be my best friends for life and this is a moment we’ll never forget. We’re going to look back on this 10, 20 years from now and know we were so close together.”