Smithtown West's Ben Rappa gets around Smithtown East's Benjamin Haug in...

Smithtown West's Ben Rappa gets around Smithtown East's Benjamin Haug in the first quarter during a Suffolk Class AAA semifinal on Tuesday at Longwood. Credit: Bob Sorensen

This season’s third edition of the Smithtown West vs. Smithtown East boys basketball rivalry had a trip to the Suffolk Class AA boys basketball finals on the line.

In the third matchup Tuesday, the third quarter proved crucial for Smithtown West in a third win over its crosstown foe.

Top-seeded Smithtown West scored 23 third-quarter points and allowed just six, extending a nine-point halftime lead to 26 entering the fourth quarter. Smithtown West led by as much as 40 in a commanding 74-47 win over No. 4 Smithtown East in the county semifinals Tuesday at Longwood High School.

“Dominant,” Smithtown West coach Mike Agostino said of the third quarter. “And I think it all started on the defensive end. We limited them to one shot per possession. We knew we could get out and run once we did that.”

Ben Rappa and Michael Cascione each scored 16 points, Jack Melore added 14 points and Matt Bannell had 12 points for Smithtown West (21-1).

“The whole first half we were getting open shots and we just missed a few,” Melore said. “In the third quarter, we knew if we kept the ball movement up and kept getting good shots, they would start falling.”

In search of its first-ever county title, Smithtown West will play Half Hollow Hills East (18-4) — the team it lost to — in the county championship at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Longwood.

“We keep counting down,” Agostino said. “We want six games. We got two down, so we got four more to go. We want to go up to Glens Falls. We want to make this run.”

Craig O'Neill had 11 points for Smithtown East (16-6).

The two teams were tied at 14 after the first quarter. Smithtown West went on a 10-2 run to start the second quarter and scored the final five points of the half to go up 29-20.

After Smithtown East forward Gjon Lleshaj hit a layup to open the second half, Smithtown West extended its lead again with a 9-0 run to make it 38-22 with 4:38 left in the third.

“Coach [Agostino] has them in a culture that is second to none right now,” Smithtown East coach Al Chandler said. “Every kid that comes in plays a level of defense that is brought on by leadership.”

Smithtown West continued to score in bunches to end the third, carrying a 52-26 lead into the fourth.

With history on the line Saturday, there is no questioning just how much a win would mean.

“It would really mean everything because the school’s never had it,” Melore said. “We believe we’re a special team and we’re going to be the ones who can get it.”

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