Greenport boys basketball coach Ev Corwin felt his team needed a fast start in the Long Island Class C championship game on Tuesday night. So, he had a talk with his star sophomore guard Ahkee Anderson on Monday.
“Listen, I’m going to call your number really early,” he told Anderson. “You get going early, it’ll calm everybody down.”
Anderson rose to the occasion and then some. He connected on three treys and 10 points in the opening quarter, igniting the Porters to a 69-43 triumph over East Rockaway at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
“He loves the big stage,” Corwin said. “That’s the kind of trait you want in your best player.”
The Porters (21-3), ranked eighth in the state, earned a golden trophy for their accomplishment, but they have no plans of stopping there. They’re aiming for a state championship.
“This was step one,” said Anderson, who earned tournament MVP honors behind a 27-point performance. “We’re really trying to get to the state championship. We’ve all been working toward it. It’s something we have in the back of our heads every time we play.”
“It feels amazing,” center Jude Swann said. “The whole city likes it, the whole town. We worked hard for this.”
Next up is the regional finals in Westchester County Saturday, when they will meet Alexander Hamilton (Section I), the 65-58 winner of Tuesday night’s game against Millbrook (Section IX).
“I said to the guys: We want to win the last game we play this year,” Corwin said. “That’s our goal. Anything other than that is a disappointment this year.”
In a postseason anomaly, East Rockaway (7-14), the Nassau County Class C representative, entered the game on a seven-game losing streak because it plays in a league that includes Class A and B teams in addition to Class C.
Greenport, however, understood that records could be deceiving, and took no chances.
“In these type of moments, it’s March, winner go home,” Anderson said. “We knew they would come out hungry, so we had to make sure we matched their intensity.”
Which the Porters did.
They stumbled in the early going, missing their first four shots as Chris Levins sank a layup 25 seconds after the opening tipoff to give East Rockaway a 2-0 lead. Then the Porters rolled off 13 consecutive points and never looked back.
“I wanted to make sure I came out aggressive, to get out to a fast start,” Anderson said. “The shots were falling for me tonight.”
Jude Swann chipped in with four of his 11 points during that early run. He ensured the Rocks couldn’t establish any rhythm to get back into the game by blocking three of his team-high seven shots in the second quarter.
“Julian really is the difference maker because there’s not a lot of teams that has a Julian,” Corwin said. “So far, we haven’t seen another team with a 6-4, 260-pound guy who moves well and who has a soft touch.”
Anderson’s game is more than just scoring. It’s running the show, whether it’s driving to the hoop for two points or passing behind his back to a teammate, which he did to give Tyrus Smiley (seven points, team-high 10 rebounds) an easy basket — one of his six assists — to boost Greenport to a 22-6 advantage with six minutes and 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“Sometimes myself included, you forget he’s a sophomore,” Corwin said. “He’s so unselfish as a player and he’s 15-years-old. It’s nice to have a guy when there’s a big shot to be taken -— not that other guys can’t take them — but he’s earned the title of the go-to guy and when you have one of those go-to guys, it makes everybody’s life easier.”
The Porters enjoyed as much as a 35-point lead with 6:55 remaining in the game before East Rockaway’s Sky Mosley rattled off eight of his team-high 22 points in the final quarter.
Greenport’s tenacity on defense helped set up its attack, whether the players were diving after loose balls on the floor or ball-hawking the opposition. Jaxan Swann (12 points) was key to the latter, making three steals.
“We just had to make sure we came out on defense,” Anderson said. “We know that’s one of our focal points coming into games. We know that defense will lead to offense.”
Which could very well lead to a state championship.
Photo caption: Greenport guard Ahkee Anderson lays the ball into the hoop. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)