The gym was abuzz prior to the opening tip-off. Summer league boys basketball games don’t usually generate this sort of excitement, but it was a championship game, and the anticipation was palpable.
The Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools final between Mount Sinai, the regular-season champion, and Southold, perhaps the surprise team of the summer, made for an interesting matchup on Thursday night. Southold, which had lost to Mount Sinai by 22 points during the regular season, did not have some of its players, including Pat McFarland, for that game. Since then, however, the First Settlers had taken on the appearance of a more confident, aggressive team. They advanced to the final on the strength of well-played playoff victories over Rocky Point and Center Moriches (in overtime). Mount Sinai, however, represented a stern test.
A tight, hard-fought game was expected and that was what materialized, with both sides playing hounding defense that made points hard to come by.
With the game over 10 minutes old, the Eastport/South Manor High School scoreboard showed a less than grand total of 4 points scored — by both teams combined!
Shots weren’t falling. And so it went. As hard as both teams played on defense, their offenses were sorely lacking. The First Settlers shot 13.5 percent (5 of 37) from the field. Mount Sinai wasn’t much better at 14.3 percent (6 of 42). Combined, the teams went 0 for 20 from 3-point range.
But Mount Sinai put up enough points down the stretch to close the game on a 9-0 run for a 25-17 win and the championship plaque, which it received from Jeff Ellis, the league supervisor.
Mount Sinai showed why it was able to put up a 10-1 record this summer (its sole loss was to Greenport). The Mustangs have talent. They have a scorer (Nick Rose), who can put the ball in the basket. He was the only player to reach double figures with 13 points on a day when points were hard to come by. They have a rebounder (Nolan Kelly), who is a force majeur on the boards. He collected 16 rebounds. And they have a hustling scrapper on defense (Noah Wessels), who had a knack for coming up with steal after steal. He had six of them.
It all took its toll on the First Settlers (6-5).
Southold swiped the lead for the fifth time when Noah Mina drained a pair of free throws for a 17-16 edge late in the game. But two free throws by Kelly shortly after that restored Mount Sinai’s advantage for the fourth and final time.
A layup by Vinny Margulies and successful conversions of a one-and-one by Rose with 43.5 seconds left made it 22-17, matching the largest margin up to that point. A free throw by Rose and two more by Margulies salted the game away.
The First Settlers were aided by the play of Aidan Vandenburgh, who led them with 8 points.
Both teams shot dismally in the first half, which ended with Mount Sinai in front, 11-7. Southold went 3 of 16 from the field while Mount Sinai struggled at 3 of 25.
The second half brought more of the same. The First Settlers missed 24 of their final 26 field-goal attempts.
[Photo Caption: Southold’s Pat McFarland takes aim for a shot while being defended by Mount Sinai’s Dylan Gins and Nick Pintabona, right. (Credit: Garret Meade)]