Call it growing pains.
Top-seeded Portledge and its six-man rotation comprised of two freshman, two sophomores and two juniors fell to No. 2 Poly Prep, 69-55, in the NYSAIS Class B final on Sunday at Fieldston School in the Bronx.
Jahmir Primer had 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the No. 1 Panthers (22-6), who were tied at 29 at halftime despite Zaire Baines (10 points, four assists) nursing a strained right calf. Portledge, with only seven players on its roster, proved unequipped for the second-half rigors of a championship game.
“I think initially when the game started, we went with the game plan — come out strong early, get to the basket, try to get everyone touches,” Primer said. “But in the second half we just slowed down, we weren’t getting the shots we normally take, and we just let it slip away from us.”
Still, Portledge was resilient through the fourth quarter.
After Christian Daley made two free throws to get the Panthers within eight late in the fourth, Primer drove and kicked out to Anthony Follet (11 points) for a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 56-51 with 2:10 left. Portledge called a timeout and set up its press, but Poly Prep's Jack Boyle broke through for a layup on the next possession, and he made two free throws on the possession after that to put Poly Prep up by nine.
“The press worked but you live and die by that sword,” Portledge coach Nick Tsikitas said. “With seven players and Zaire hobbling, we had to rest and pick and choose when to use it.”
Poly Prep guard Max Ragusa scored 27 points and forward Josh Hartley had 10 points and held the advantage both on the glass and in rim protection.
“Boards and second chance points hurt us, and they did a great job of denying Zaire the ball,” Tsikitas said. “Jahmir played phenomenal but you have to tip your hat to a team that played a better game than we did today.”
Fortunately for Portledge, they can do it all again next year.
“This season has been great for us; we had our ups and downs, but we came together in the end,” said Primer, who averaged 15.6 points this season. “Coming into this game we said we were going to leave it out on that court and that’s what I think we did. Unfortunately it didn’t come out the way we wanted, but next year we will come back strong and improve defensively.”
Baines (26.4 points per game) finished his sophomore season as the seventh-leading scorer in Long Island boys basketball history with 2,270 points. Aidan Igiehon (Lawrence Woodmere Academy, 2014-19) is sixth with 2,312. Baines will need 530 points over the next two seasons to break the all-time mark of 2,799, set by Ryan Creighton (Greenport, 2004-09).
“We made a lot of mistakes we don’t normally make today,” Baines said. “We just have to get back in the gym and get better for next year.”