It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Greenport and Southold high school boys basketball teams have close ties. After all, the two North Fork schools are only eight miles apart.
Coaches, players and fans are familiar with each other and seem to be on good terms, but allegiances are allegiances.
“I know a lot of people from Southold,” Greenport Coach Al Edwards said. “I work with some people from Southold. They’re coming in [to the gym and] they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re with you Al,’ but I know that they’re from Southold and they’re not.”
The important thing for the Porters was that they had the support of their home fans Saturday when, boosted by Dantré Langhorne’s 30-point performance, they defeated the Southolders, 61-46, in a Suffolk County Class C semifinal.
With the victory, top-seeded Greenport (18-1) advances to the county final against either the No. 2 Stony Brook School Bears or the No. 3 Port Jefferson Royals on Tuesday afternoon at Longwood High School.
“We basically started 0 and 0 [in the playoffs], and it doesn’t matter how many wins we got and how many losses” during the regular season, Langhorne said. “We just have to keep playing.”
Of course, League VIII champion Greenport and No. 4 seed Southold have played each other before. The neighbors split the two regular-season games they played during the regular season, Southold’s victory accounting for the only loss Greenport has suffered.
But this playoff matchup added a measure of intrigue. It was the first time in at least 32 years that the teams have played each other in an elimination county tournament game.
“I think the fun thing about today is it was the first time it really meant something,” Southold Coach Jeff Ellis said. “Tonight it mattered.”
In the end, Southold had no answer for Langhorne, the 6-foot-5 senior forward who was determined not to see his high school career end just yet. In addition to his 30 points, which is four shy of his career high, Langhorne also accounted for 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a sensational dunk that completed the scoring with 10 seconds to go.
Langhorne sensed the urgency to win and understood the consequences of losing. “I started to realize that it would have been my last game, and I didn’t want to lose it at home,” he said.
Southold (10-9) might have given itself a psychological edge when a layup by Winston Wilcenski awarded the First Settlers their first lead of the game, 30-29, by halftime. If it did, it didn’t last for long, though. Jalen Shelby of Greenport hit a three-point shot early in the third quarter to make it 32-30, and the Porters never trailed after that.
Shelby hit all four of his three-pointers in the third quarter when Greenport outscored the visitors by 16-4.
“It felt good coming back into the second half and then, I don’t know, something just happened, and it just started going downhill,” said Wilcenski.
Southold lost its way in the second half. Aside from Wilcenski, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the second half, the only First Settlers to score in the final 16 minutes were seniors Sal Manno and Alex Conway. After making 10 of 16 field-goal attempts in the first half, Southold shot 4 for 17 from the field in the second half.
“We played hard,” Ellis said. “We played with heart, but I don’t know what happened from the first half to the second half, you know. We just stopped shooting the basketball. We had a great first half. We played as perfect as we could, limited the turnovers. It wasn’t all about Winston. Other guys were taking shots and making shots. And then the second half, I don’t know, the other guys who were scoring just stopped shooting the ball and went to turning it over instead. When you turn the ball over instead of getting shots up, it’s going to be a long night.”
Shelby supplied the Porters with 14 points and five assists. Tremayne Hansen added eight points, 11 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and one assist.
Manno (14 points, five assists) played his last game for Southold, as did Conway, who pulled down nine rebounds to go with six points.
“I love playing Southold because they come out every game and they just fight,” said Langhorne.
But the Porters must have liked the result even better. With the playoffs comes a greater sense of urgency. Losses are fatal.
Said Edwards, “We had to win in order to move on, to see another day.”