The trip north to the state final four in Glens Falls had just gone south in the Class B semis. But Naevon Williams saw through Southampton’s sadness that Saturday morning in March at Cool Insuring Arena and into the distance.
“This is a great experience because we played a lot of big teams,” the then-sophomore guard said. “We beat them and got to the big stage. So we should have lots of confidence coming in next season.”
Well, next season is here.
Southampton, Brentwood and South Side made it all the way to that big stage in Glens Falls.
All lost in the semifinals.
These Long Island championship teams that received that taste would love another.
“It’s like having your favorite meal and not getting enough of it — you want more,” said Southampton’s 33rd-year coach Herm Lamison, who guided the Mariners to a state title in 1999.
The carrot is out there.
“I think it’s a tremendous motivator,” Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said.
It’s just that these distance runs to an upstate venue in pursuit of a state title are hard to repeat despite having that experience.
Brentwood reached the final four for the first time since 2019 when it lost in the AA final. Southampton returned for the first time since 2017 when it exited in the A semis. The venue was in Binghamton those years.
South Side lost in the 1987 B final in Glens Falls. So the Cyclones finally returned after 35 years.
“One of the things I hope,” coach Jerry D’Angelo said, “is the five [returning] kids that got to experience that, even though three didn’t play much, need to kind of remember how hard we worked last year and how hard it would take us to work this year to possibly go to that kind of a level again.”
Brentwood, which has moved from Class AA to AAA, has three returning starters for a run at reaching that level again.
“It was a great experience for both me and the team,” said Brentwood’s Marquese Dennis, a Newsday All-Long Island second-teamer last season.
“The environment was different than anything else. It was exciting, us on the big screen. It was really exciting. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get [back] there.”
The 6-5 senior forward averaged 14.3 points and 10.1 rebounds for a 19-8 team. Between his ability to shoot and attack the rim, Dennis is “really developing into an inside-out player,” Jimenez said.
Junior point guard Jerry Webb left the school in late November and moved on to Wyandanch. But the backcourt still features third-year starter Josh Ramos, a 5-10 senior who’s taking over at the point, and 6-foot junior Tyrell Davender, another returning starter. Devon Snell, a 6-1 senior, will start at forward after serving as the sixth man and a big contributor in the postseason.
In the end, Jimenez feels rebounding will be the key to a possible trip northward again.
“It’s definitely the primary goal,” Jimenez said. “We have the pieces. But everything has to go well.”
Southampton, now in Class A after a 21-6 season, returns four starters.
The Mariners lost Newsday All-Long Island first-team point guard Derek Reed to graduation. But Westhampton transfer Dominick White, a 6-3 senior who’s “an explosive, talented player,” Lamison said, will be in a point guard-by-committee mix.
Williams, who averaged nearly 18 points, will also be in it, but the 6-2 junior is more of a shooting guard.
“He can be a dominant force on the floor,” Lamison said. “He has that ability to take over games.”
Tyson Reddick, a 6-foot junior shooting guard, averaged 11.4 points and finished third on Long Island with 81 threes. Combo guard Alex Franklin, a 6-2 sophomore, averaged a double-double with 12.4 points and a team-best 11 rebounds per game. Tyler Blake, a 6-5 senior forward with a nice outside touch, had a strong postseason.
“If we can stay healthy,” Lamison said, “I think we’ve got a good shot of moving along up the line, if you will.”
South Side, which has gone from Class A to AA, won 24 straight games before falling in Glens Falls and finishing at 24-2.
The only returnees with starting experience are 6-5 Pat Mullen and 6-4 Ryan Kennedy. The seniors can play power forward and center. Three other Cyclones stand 6-4 to 6-6.
“Some of the youth, I like,” D’Angelo said. “I think we are pretty athletic. I think we have good size. But you have a tough time sometimes with experience, just playing to that championship level . . . We’re going to take our bumps at the beginning. That’s going to be a learning process.”
So D’Angelo said he expects them to be “better in February.”
“I think on paper people are definitely writing us off,” D’Angelo said. “I think we may still be very hopeful this year.”