Smithtown Christian's Isaiah McCarter goes strong inside during a New York State...

Smithtown Christian's Isaiah McCarter goes strong inside during a New York State Class D boys basketball semifinal against North Warren at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, New York, on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

GLENS FALLS — The losing side of championship-defining moments is often not the one told.

Reality set in for the Smithtown Christian boys basketball team after a 51-46 loss to North Warren Central in the state Class D semifinals, but a moment between its coach and his star player epitomized the bond of team sports.

Knights coach Daniel Skaritka and senior forward Isaiah McCarter shared an emotional embrace in the Cool Insuring Arena tunnel, realizing their relationship is more important than Saturday morning’s defeat.

“That’s like my big brother,” McCarter said. “I love him. There’s nothing else to say. The relationships I’ve made here, I’m going to be thankful for for the rest of my life."

The 6-3 McCarter had 22 points and 17 rebounds, including 12 offensive boards, in a dynamic performance for Smithtown Christian (21-5). He averaged a team-leading 19 points per game in the postseason.

“Isaiah’s like the cornerstone of our team,” Skaritka said. “Everyone knows who he is. He showed how much of an asset and a great basketball player he is on the court today. We relied on him, and he definitely helped us stay in this game.”

This year marked Smithtown Christian’s first trip to the state semifinals.

North Warren (22-4), the Section II champion, will play Section III champion Sackets Harbor in the state championship at 3 p.m. Sunday. 

Smithtown Christian led 44-37 with 4:29 left after guard Duke Rancy drilled a three-pointer with 4:29 remaining. The Cougars responded with a 7-0 run.

Wyatt Jennings hit North Warren’s only three-pointer — it went 1-for-14 from deep — to make it 44-40 with 3:38 remaining. Derrick Tyrell hit a layup to cut it two with 2:51 left, and Semaj Cuyler (24 points) made two free throws to even the score at 44 with 2:29 left.

Smithtown Christian guard Lorenzo Crilly hit a mid-range jumper with 2:09 left for a 46-44 advantage, but the Knights would not lead again. Cuyler made two free throws to tie it at 46 with 1:56 left, and Tyrell made a transition layup to give the Cougars a 48-46 lead with 59 seconds left.

McCarter missed two free throws with 38.2 seconds left, but Crilly chased down the second miss before it went out of bounds and passed it to Rancy. With new life and a chance to tie or take the lead, Skaritka called a timeout with 29.9 seconds left.

“We went over game situations for multiple days,” Skaritka said. “Thirty seconds, down [or] up by two. Twenty seconds, up by one. We go over those situations, and we executed what we wanted to do. We just didn’t finish at the end.

“We were prepared. I think we knew exactly what our roles were and what the job was. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Nehemiah Yuen’s floater with eight seconds left bounced off the rim to North Warren’s Elijah Horge, who was sent to the foul line with 5.1 seconds left. Horge made the first free throw and missed the second, but Tyler Hitchcock dove for the offensive rebound and kicked it to Horge, who was fouled again.

Horge made both free throws with 1.2 seconds left for the game’s final points.

“It’s a very heavy senior-loaded team,” Skaritka said. “I’ve had them for four, five years now. It’s been fun. We’ve made a lot of memories. We’ve built relationships that hopefully will last long after the season’s over.”

McCarter, Yuen and Rancy — three of Smithtown Christian’s starting five that played all 32 minutes Saturday — are seniors.

“My team, I don’t even consider them that no more,” McCarter said. “These are my brothers, life-long brothers that I made. It’s deeper than basketball.”


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