The Northport boys basketball team is a bunch of cool customers.
As well as the Tigers played against Half Hollow Hills East on Wednesday night – and it looked like they might pull away at several points – they couldn’t quite shake the Thunderbirds. That might panic some, but not Northport. Pressure? The Tigers just kept making big plays.
With a lead that had been 10 down to four, center Nick Watts found senior swingman George Mansour for a three-pointer from the corner with one minute left. And with the margin down to two points twice in the final 17 seconds, junior guard Pat Healy made two free throws both times. And so host Northport held off the Thunderbirds for a 48-44 Suffolk League III victory.
“Experience is kicking in,” Tigers coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “Both of those guys have been on varsity for three years. . . . and our guys have confidence. They know what to do in those situations now and they trust each other, and they make plays when it counts.”
Northport (15-1, 8-0) has the look of a contender -- with 13 straight wins since a 12-point loss to Brentwood seven weeks ago -- and also have poise.
“We feel like contenders – we know we can play with any team on the Island,” said Healy, who finished with 15 points. “Our loss was one of the first games of the season and we were getting used to each other. We have improved. We all know what we can do and what our roles are now. We play well together.”
“It can be any team’s night so we play every game like a state [tournament] game – got to win,” Mansour said.
Robby Kennedy had 11 points and four assists and Sean Walsh scored nine points, all on three-pointers, for the Tigers. Frank Wilson had 14 points, Dante Green 11 points and Xavier Lewis 10 points for Hills East (8-8, 5-3), which plays an all-underclassmen lineup and lost to the Tigers at home five weeks ago.
“We made some critical turnovers in key situations, but that’s youth,” T-birds coach Peter Basel said. “We hung with one of the best teams on Long Island today and that shows our growth.”
Northport led 41-37 after Wilson made one of two free throws with 1:15 to play. Watts drove the baseline from the left side and was in position for a contested layup when he spotted Mansour alone in the corner for the trey. Still, Hills East had it down to 44-42 on a Green three-pointer with 16.6 seconds left. But the T-birds fouled Healy on the Tigers' last two possessions and he hit all four free throws.
“I felt no tension,” he said. “[Be] positive on the line. I had my teammates believing in me and that helped me knock them down.”