A good coach listens and keeps an open mind. Al Edwards did both on Wednesday night, and it helped his Greenport High School boys basketball team secure a league championship.
On the final night of the regular season, it was The Stony Brook School Bears versus the Porters, playing for the Suffolk County League VIII title. Winner take all.
The Porters had started the game in a 2-3 zone defense that at least one unnamed player did not feel comfortable with. He let Edwards know about it, and the coach said the two got into an argument about it. “He said we got to get out of it and play something else. Apparently, he was right,” Edwards said, laughing afterward.
Well, the result doesn’t lie. Near the end of the second quarter the Porters switched to a box-and-one defense. It set off a 23-3 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 43-29 lead 28 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Porters went on to win, 58-45, and treated their home fans to the sight of them taking turns cutting down a net from a basket. Greenport fans roared when Edwards snipped the final piece of the net attached to the basket.
With this triumph, the Porters (17-1, 13-1) will add a 12th league championship banner to a wall in their gym. It is their fourth league crown in five years, but it doesn’t get old.
“It means a lot,” Greenport forward Jalen Shelby said. “It feels good every time we do it, and hopefully from tonight, we keep moving on and go to Glens Falls” for the state final four.
Edwards, who is in his 29th year as the team’s coach, said: “I love cutting the net down. We met our number one objective, which was to win the league. Now our next objective is to win the [county] Class C [title] and then do well in the state tournament, even win that. We got one down.”
Give a lot of the credit for Greenport’s fifth straight win to the defensive switch. Stony Brook’s star player, Tim Pandolfi, rang up 17 points in the first half. With Greenport’s star player, Dantré Langhorne, guarding him at times, Pandolfi was held scoreless in the third quarter. The senior guard finished with 26 points.
With two 6-foot-5 players, Tremayne Hansen and Langhorne, Greenport’s interior game was tough. The Porters blocked six shots and picked up half of their 30 rebounds on the offensive glass.
It added up to the first defeat for Stony Brook (13-3, 12-2) in nine games.
“Tremayne’s really tough,” Stony Brook Coach Mike Hickey said. “We’ve got some inexperienced guys that are inside and [Greenport’s] shot-blocking capability and the second and third shots really hurt us and broke our back a number of times. It’s not enough to have your body between them and the basket. You got to back them out, you got to keep them off the boards, and, honestly, it’s very difficult.”
Shelby knocked down four three-point shots and finished with 17 points. Langhorne brought his typical all-around game, with 16 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks.
As he is wont to do, Langhorne wowed the crowd with flashy play, such as making a monster block, converting a left-handed scoop layup despite being almost horizontal and surrounded by three Stony Brook defenders, and tirelessly battling for putbacks.
“Obviously, Dantré does so many things,” Hickey said. “I think his best attribute is his passing. And because of his size and his quickness, he’s a very difficult matchup for anybody. You put a quick guy on him, he’ll take it inside. You put a big guy on him, he’s too quick; he’ll take it outside. There’s so many things that he does that it’s hard to concentrate on any one thing.”
Hansen totaled 12 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks and an assist.
Jerome Washington had 10 points and Farqu Taylor grabbed 10 rebounds for Stony Brook.
“We came through,” Shelby said. “We came out here, played good ‘D’, good offense. You know what they say, good defense leads to easy offense. That’s what we had tonight.”
Prior to the game, the Porters honored their three seniors — Hansen, Langhorne and Tyler McNeil. McNeil missed most of the season with a broken ankle, but started on Wednesday night and got the most playing time he has had since returning to the team six games ago.
Stony Brook and Greenport will both have playoff games on Saturday. The playoff brackets are expected to be released Thursday, but the teams appear to be on a collision course for a third meeting that would decide the county title (Greenport swept both regular-season games from the Bears).
Langhorne was keeping the larger picture in mind after the league title was won.
“It’s one step. Just keep going,” he said. “We just got to keep playing and stay determined.”