This story was originally published Feb. 19, 2009, the week Ryan Creighton became Long Island’s all-time leading boys basketball scorer:
The gold-colored sheets of construction paper were numbered from 17 down to 1. Taped to the wall behind one of the baskets at Greenport High School, they would serve as the countdown to the inevitable.
One by one and two by two, the numbers dropped. Ryan Creighton was doing what he usually does, scoring — and scoring fast — for the Greenport Porters basketball team. This time, though, he was marching toward history and the packed gymnasium was buzzing in anticipation.
There were about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter when the Greenport senior became the leading scorer in Long Island boys’ basketball history. The standing-room-only crowd roared and jumped to its feet after watching Creighton split Shelter Island defenders and loft a soft four-foot shot that kissed off the back rim before falling through the net.
“It definitely felt unreal. I really wasn’t thinking anything. I can’t believe it,” said Creighton, whose 25 points in Greenport’s 85-35 win over Shelter Island boosted his varsity career total to 2,622. East Hampton’s Kenny Wood amassed 2,613 points between 1985 and 1989.
Following the record-breaking shot, officials stopped the game momentarily for a special presentation of the basketball No. 34 used to add his name to the record book.
Creighton held the ball high above his head, and exchanged a high five with his mother, Angela Smith, before handing the ball to her.
One of Greenport’s assistant coaches, Ev Corwin, sensed a change in Creighton’s demeanor once he broke the scoring mark.
“You could see [the relief] in his face,” Corwin said. “He got his points, he high-fived everybody and he walked off the floor. All he kept on saying was, ‘Let’s get back to business.’ââ”
Indeed, the 6-foot-3 scoring king told reporters after the game that he was relieved the record was now behind him.
“I just wanted to get it out of the way, so we could continue playing,” said Creighton, a two-time all-state player who led the Porters to the Class D state semifinals the last two seasons.
Creighton is now third on the all-time scoring list for New York State. Lance Stephenson at Abraham Lincoln in New York City became the state’s all-time leading scorer this week. He has 2,808 points, with up to six games remaining in his high school career.
Whether Creighton can catch Sebastian Telfair, an NBA star who tallied 2,785 at Lincoln, will depend largely on the play of his teammates and how far the Porters ¬¬– who finished the regular season with 17 wins and two losses — go in the playoffs.
“It’s reachable, but I’m really not pushing toward it,” said Creighton, who averages 27.5 points per game. “If I can get it, that would be great. But my main thing is getting a state title.”
A player whose connection to the Greenport boys’ basketball program started when he was a ball boy as a youngster, Creighton has risen to the sort of prominence that few other players have. Along with his coach, Al Edwards, whose school scoring record Creighton broke earlier this season, Creighton is among the top players Suffolk County has produced.
“I never got to see Al [play],” Corwin said. “In my mind, because of everything I heard, it’s almost 1 and 1A. You have two guys, they’re class acts. You can be proud to have them as your best players.”
Creighton, as well as coaches and teammates, said he played his typical game against Shelter Island. In other words, he looked for the open man to pass to and didn’t force shots.
“Everybody was here to see him score 17 points,” Corwin said. “Now, anybody else is going to go out there, and you think they’re going to rush one shot at least, or something. Not one time in that first quarter did he do anything different … That’s just him in a nutshell. I don’t know anyone else who handles situations like that.”
A varsity starter since he was an eighth-grader, Creighton leads the county in averages for points (27.5), rebounds (8.9) and assists (5.7) per game, according to newsday.com.
What impresses Porters forward Wally Sorenson the most about his teammate is the number of assists he has accumulated.
“He doesn’t always try to score because he looks for the open man every time,” Sorenson said.
For Creighton, Sorenson and Greenport’s two other seniors, Hezikah Mangham and Brandon Mims, it was their final game in the Greenport gym, adding another emotional component to the game.
Among those in attendance were Creighton’s parents, Leon Creighton and Smith. Watching from the bench was his uncle, Rodney Shelby, who is one of Greenport’s assistant coaches.
“It was one of the most gratifying times in my life,” said Rodney Shelby, who noted that four generations of Shelbys were on hand to witness the event. “I didn’t show it, but deep down inside, I felt a sense of pride for him and my family.”
The Porters are 14-0 in Suffolk’s League VIII and have not lost a league game since falling to The Stony Brook School Bears on a buzzer-beater three seasons ago. The win over Shelter Island was their eighth straight.
This is Creighton’s last run at a state title. The playoffs start for Greenport tomorrow with a matchup against the Bridgehampton Killer Bees (9-9) at Longwood High School. The Porters cruised to easy wins in both of their regular-season games against Bridgehampton, winning by 101-41 on Jan. 6 and 90-45 on Jan. 30.
“I think we’re ready,” said Creighton.