Smithtown West overcomes adversity in boys basketball win over Northport
There’s no blueprint for a team to overcome a frightening injury to any teammate, let alone its star player.
Smithtown West had to figure out how to move forward after senior forward Patrick Burke injured his knee midway through the first quarter against host Northport. He was put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital awaiting a recovery timetable, according to coach Michael Agostino.
“One of our players landed, took a charge and fell back into his knee,” Agostino said. “And from what I saw, his knee dislocated and it was very [bad]. It was honestly the [worst] injury I’ve seen in my career coaching over 20 years.”
Smithtown West powered through after a temporary pause to the game, winning 63-58 behind Lorenzo Rappa and Michael Cassione’s total of 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough to see,” Rappa said. “He’s our brother, but we got to rally around each other. We’re super close, so we just relied on each other, trusted in each other. We knew what we were capable of.”
Northport got off to a hot start with Brendan Carr, Andrew Miller and Emmett Radziul each nailing a three-pointer to lead 11-4 halfway through the first quarter. Burke fell a minute later, halting play. After the stoppage, Northport still controlled the game’s pace.
A loud crowd, eager to avenge a 68-41 loss in December, saw Northport (11-5) either leading or being tied with Smithtown West (14-2) until 5:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Jack Melore scored 20 points for the Bulls and was a major factor in keeping Smithtown West within striking distance. He continuously earned trips to the free-throw line, hitting 11 of 12 foul shots.
Rappa, the Bulls’ point guard, controlled the game, slicing the defense with passes or finding his way to the rim. He finished with 14 points, including the final free throw to make it a five-point game.
“I’m confident in my ability, and I like moments like this,” Rappa said. “I know that my teammates trust me, and I trust them . . . It’s just confidence and trust in my teammates that allows me to do what I was able to do today.”
Agostino said he hopes to get an update on Burke soon, so it’s uncertain whether he will be available for the rest of the season and playoffs.
“Patrick is, I feel, the best player in the county,” Agostino said. “You lose a kid like that offensively, it’s going to change things, obviously. But we have a bunch of kids that can really play . . . We might not change that much, but I got to figure it out. I need time to think about it.”