FIRST SETTLERS 54, KNIGHTS 32
Whenever he plays basketball, Liam Walker usually has a serious, determined look on his face, whether he is leading a fast break, driving to the basket or attempting a 3-point shot.
For a couple of seconds on Monday night, the senior guard let his guard down, so to speak. He had a smile on his face.
Late in the Suffolk County League VIII game, sophomore guard Pat McFarland stole the ball from a Smithtown Christian player and fed Walker under the basket. Walker sank perhaps his easiest bucket of the game, which turned out to be his 1,000th career point.
He knew he was 2 points shy.
“I knew once he stole it that was going to be it,” Walker said. “I had a smile on my face because I knew that was going to be an easy shot like that. I had to focus on making it.”
It turned out to be the 26th and 27th and Walker’s last points of a memorable night in Smithtown. He added 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists in the First Settlers’ 54-32 victory.
“It’s probably about the best game I’ve seen him play in his career, one of the best games,” said coach Phil Reed, whose team improved to 6-2, 4-0 in the league. “Double-doubles. I mean he’s close to a triple-double. What are you going to say? And it was his 1,000th point.
“And he’s always played pretty well in this gym. He’s had some of his best games at Christian. I can’t say much more on what he’s done. I mean, zero turnovers today. The boys played well all away around. And it wasn’t like we were looking to give him the shots. He’s taking good shots, he’s taking looks, he’s giving it up. So, you can’t ask for a better game for him. Good for him.”
Walker became the only the fourth player — boy or girl — in school history to reach 1,000 points. Betsy Van Bourgondien was the first to achieve that milestone in 2002. She was followed by Sean O’Hara (1,118 from 2003 to 2006) and Amanda Capone (1,593 from 2003 to 2007).
“For small school basketball, that’s rare,” Reed said. “I was talking to Liam on the way here. You get 1,000-point scorers in some of the big schools, some of the middle ‘A’ schools. Very rare that you [have] two, three 1,000-point scorers in small schools.
“He’s played since his freshman year. I’ve seen him grow since I had him in eighth grade and JV. I’ve been with him forever. I knew it was coming. I knew his eighth-grade year he was going to be special.”
Walker’s scoring was spread out quite well, contributing 9 points in the first quarter and 6 points in each of the three final periods.
“It was one of my goals going into high school basketball in ninth grade,” he said of 1,000 points. “It means a lot because I worked very hard.
“My teammates, too. I’ve had a lot of great passers with me that have gotten me a lot of points.”
Walker’s 1,000th point came with 2 minutes 54 seconds remaining in the game as McFarland found his teammate under the basket for that easy layup and a 50-29 advantage.
“I wasn’t aware that was his 1,000th point,” McFarland said. “While I passed it to him, he looked at me whether he should take it or not. I found out now that wasn’t the way he wanted to score his 1,000th point. Although I gave him the assist for his 1,000th point, I don’t think it was the exact way he thought it would happen.”
Reed, who had five substitutes ready to enter the game, pulled the five from the court. Walker was hugged and congratulated by his teammates as the public-address announcer acknowledged his feat.
McFarland admitted he has always looked up to Walker.
“It just shows how hard he’s worked over the years and it’s exactly what I want to do, now that I’m a sophomore,” he said. “I’m working to try to get to where he is as a player with everything he can do in his repertoire offensively and defensively. He’s a leader on this team.”
While Walker made history, it was hardly a one-man show for Southold.
Defense and rebounding keyed the win as the visitors boxed out well. The First Settlers’ alert and ball-hawking style made life difficult for Smithtown Christian (2-5, 1-3), which shot only 19.8 percent (10 of 53) from the field. Moreover, Smithtown canned but 1 of 15 3-point attempts and that was in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand.
“The defense won us that [game],” Walker said. “We got easy points off of our defense. That was our main goal, not to score [the 1,000th point] when we came into this game. I knew that was going to come eventually. Our defense had to be focused because they had a couple of good players that we really had to guard. We have fast guards that allow us to get out to the perimeter and give them tough shots outside.”
The game turned in the third quarter when Southold outscored the Knights, 18-5, while the hosts shot only 1 for 15 from the field. Matt McCarthy had 5 of his 6 points during the period, while the First Settlers sank 7 of 12 attempts.
Reed was heartened by what he saw.
“It was the first time I’ve seen us in a while where we were able to run the floor and felt comfortable doing it,” he said. “We got a bunch of baskets off of fast-break baskets. That’s what we do. We’re not a big team. We’re a bunch of guards, maybe one or two forwards and that’s it. So we can’t afford to walk the ball up the court. We have to run the floor. Hey, we’ve got four or five soccer players on the team. I figured if we can get those kids running the floor, we’ll be all right.”
On Monday night, the First Settlers and Liam Walker were all right and then some.