There was a lump in Isaiah Johnson's throat Saturday that made his final high school game a tough one to swallow.
Not only were Johnson's 23 points not enough to earn Southampton a trip to Glens Falls for the state Class B Final Four, but it was the final basketball game the rugged 6-3 senior would play with his brother Israel, a 6-1 junior who scored 15 points in the Mariners' 68-58 loss to Woodlands in the state Southeast Regional Class B final at Farmingdale State.
"I'm disappointed that we lost, but we had a great season. I'm proud of my coach and I'm proud of my teammates," Isaiah Johnson said, tearing up a bit. "But the reason I'm so upset is that I will miss playing with my little brother."
Johnson & Johnson provided first aid all season and were big reasons the Mariners won the League VII, Suffolk Class B, Suffolk Small School (for the first time since 2000) and Long Island Class B championships before falling to Woodlands in the regional final for a second straight year.
Woodlands (21-3), which advanced to the state Class B semifinals Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center, rocked Southampton early with a devastating press-and-trap defense and some sharp outside shooting that helped produce a 37-19 advantage at the half.
The Mariners (22-3) turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, creating an uphill scenario in the second half that they were never able to overcome.
"We practiced for the press all week," Isaiah Johnson said. "But they came out on fire. We knew what they were doing but we just didn't execute. We started making plays in the second half, but like Coach just told us, it was a little too late."
Southampton began the second half with a 10-3 run that cut the deficit to 40-29, with Isaiah Johnson scoring three straight inside baskets.
But Woodlands' Brandon Johnson (24 points, seven assists) nailed a huge three-pointer to stop that burst. Moments later he drained another long three-pointer and Jamil Gambari (23 points, 16 rebounds) converted a conventional three-point play.
"Every time we got it to 10 or 11 points, we turned it over or missed an opportunity," South- ampton coach Herm Lamison said. "Every time we made a run, they countered, and that's the sign of a good team. They didn't stumble when we came back at them."
The Mariners fell behind by as many as 17 points before making one more run, clawing back to 60-50 with 1:46 left on Isaiah Johnson's tough bank shot inside. They began fouling deliberately to try to reduce the deficit but got no closer than eight points.
Woodlands' relentless defensive pressure was a key element all afternoon as Southampton committed 19 turnovers and shot just 2-for-15 from three-point range.
"That's the stifle-type of defense that we usually play, but today we were on the other end of those runs," Lamison said. "It's very difficult to simulate that in practice. It's tough to come back against a good, athletic team. I think we are a stellar defensive team, but their defense was outstanding -- the best we've seen all year. I can appreciate that as a defensive coach."
Woodlands eliminated Southampton in last year's Southeast Regional final, but that one was a 73-47 blowout. This year's rematch was a competitive game.
"Knowing they were bringing everyone back [Woodlands returned four starters], we knew what we wanted to do. We expected to be here," Lamison said. "And we belonged here. These kids accomplished a lot."