BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The Stony Brook School’s fans were few in numbers but mighty in presence. They displayed passion and pride, even as their beloved Bears fell behind by 19 points and trailed by 15 entering the fourth quarter. In the end, they displayed poignancy as well.
A contingent of roughly 150 stood en masse and cheered after Stony Brook’s tough 55-53 loss to Moravia on Friday in the state Class C semifinals. And the players acknowledged their supporters by standing on the court, pointing and applauding right back.
The fans, some wearing Blue Fan Group T-shirts, reserved a special cheer for the player whose spirit needed the biggest lift. “Brandon Providence! Brandon Providence!” they sang out, thanking the senior guard, who nearly brought the team all the way back but missed two free throws, the second on purpose, with seven-tenths of a second remaining.
“We love each other and our fans love us,” Providence said. “It’s amazing. All these guys. All these fans. It’s an honor to have been a part of this.”
The motto of the small, private Stony Brook School is, according to coach Mike Hickey, “character before career,” and Providence showed his character by willingly discussing his agonizing final moments on a high school basketball court.
He spearheaded the Bears’ fourth-quarter rally, scoring 10 of his 13 points and making three of his five steals.
His steal in the backcourt and quick layup cut the deficit to 53-50, and after Gabe Short (18 points, 10 rebounds) beat the press for an open layup, Providence delivered a clutch three-pointer with 15 seconds left.
Moravia’s Jordan Cosgrove (14 points) missed two free throws with 10 seconds left, opening the door for the Bears to tie or win it.
Providence drove the length of the court, penetrated and put up a layup that rimmed out. But he was fouled on the shot with less than a second left.
“I must’ve taken 2,000 free throws over the summer,” he said. “I just missed the shot. This is a tough one, but at the end of the day, it’s just basketball.”
He intentionally missed the second, which bounced hard to the right and into the hands of a Moravia player, ensuring that the Blue Devils (19-4) would advance to Saturday night’s Class C final.
Stony Brook finished 14-11 and made its first trip to the state Final Four. Seniors Jyles Etienne (12 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) and Mac Bohuny (12 points) also had productive finales.
“That’s our team. The comeback, coming back from 19 down, said a lot about us,” Providence said.
Hickey called his players “young men of character. They’ve heard the school motto, but now they lived it. I’m proud that Brandon, who is 5-5 and the littlest guy on the court, showed the biggest heart.”
Providence’s heart was broken, but not his spirit.