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Boys Basketball Preview: Porters want to jump higher

The Greenport High School boys basketball team made a tremendous leap last season, rising from a 4-14 record the season before to winning the League VIII championship, reaching the Suffolk County Class C final and finishing with a 14-8 mark. That’s quite a jump.

Coach Ev Corwin believes the Porters have another big jump in them as a new season beckons.

Several reasons stand as the basis for that optimism. For one thing, Greenport has no shortage of motivation. Losing to Stony Brook in the county final left the Porters one determined group of players.

“All of us were haunted by that game,” Corwin said. He continued: “The core of this group hasn’t stopped playing since we ended last year. They play AAU, they’re always in the gym and they just have a bad taste in their mouth from losing that game, which to me is a positive.”

Greenport has size, talent and depth.

Sophomore point guard Ahkee Anderson (18 points, eight assists, four rebounds, four steals per game) is coming off an extraordinary season in which he was named an All-State player in addition to receiving the League VIII MVP and rookie of the year awards.

Junior center Julian Swann (12 points, 15 rebounds per game) was an All-Conference choice. Senior shooting guard Jordan Fonseca (10 points per game) and junior guard Brandon Clark were regular starters while junior guard Jaxan Swann, Julian’s brother, started some games. Also returning are guard Matt Tuthill and forward Antonio Anderson, who are both seniors.

Not much about the team has changed personnel-wise, with some notable additions. A pair of 6-3 transfers join the squad: senior forward Myles Murray and junior forward Tyrus Smiley. The other new addition is junior forward Reese Costello.

Corwin believes Greenport’s experience last season will be a plus.

“I think last year, to win the league title and to get all of that stuff under our belt was just a godsend, it really was,” he said. “I think it’s just going to help us so much this year.”

“I said last year there’s going to be a lot of firsts for this team and that was one of them,” he said, referring to the county final defeat. “That was a pressure-packed situation that not one of those players were ever involved in [before], and this year, hopefully if we can make it back, it’s not going to be new to them. They’ll know what to expect.”

Mattituck (8-12) finds itself in an interesting situation.

“We’re actually more experienced this year than we were with nine seniors last year because none of those guys had played at all” before, coach Paul Ellwood said. “Last year we were old and inexperienced and this year we’re young and experienced.”

That’s not a bad combination.

Sophomore point guard Xavier Allen, 6-3 junior forward H’Nadahri Joyner and junior shooting guard Nick Perino were starters last season. Each averaged seven points per game. The only other players with previous varsity experience are senior guard Tucker Johansson and junior guard/forward Bryce Grathwohl.

The rest of the roster is flooded with newcomers: Jadyn Ford, Gregory Hauser, James Jacobs, Isaiah Johnson, Ryan Seifert, Matthew Sledjeski, Ryan Mahon, Lucas Micheels, Christopher Nicholson, Tyler Olsen and Trevor Poole.

“We’re a completely different team,” said Ellwood, who takes a 103-168 record into his 14th season. “Last year we liked to play slow, slow-down ball. We had a very good defensive team last year which compensated for our lack of offense. This year we’re a lot more offensive-minded team … The challenge is going to be on the defensive end. We’re still learning varsity defense, varsity speed.”

Last season Mattituck came within seconds of qualifying for the playoffs, but fell short, losing its final regular-season game to Babylon in a thriller.

For the Tuckers to reach the playoffs this time around, they must navigate a League VII field. “Center Moriches is far and away the best team in the league and everybody else is fighting to go .500 and make it into the playoffs,” Ellwood said. “We’ll probably all be knocking each other off.”

Since the league has only six teams, Mattituck will play 10 league games and 10 non-league games. Its first league game isn’t until the new year.

Last week Ellwood and assistant coach Tom Ascher put together the team’s first depth chart.

“We were kidding the kids saying we were doing our fantasy draft last night,” said Ellwood, who described the depth chart as a fluid situation. “As the season goes on, we’ll have some players emerge. I can tell you the starting five right now, but I can guarantee you in the middle of the season it won’t be the same five.”

Change is in the air at Southold (6-13), and in a big way.

Since last season, the First Settlers have lost eight players (six graduated, two chose not to return). That’s quite a turnover.

How many regular starters are back?

“None,” said coach Lucas Grigonis.

However, three players — senior guard Zach Grathwohl, 6-2 senior power forward Jacob Dominy and junior guard Michael Daddona — did start some games last season. Steven Russell, a 6-2 sophomore small forward, is the only other returning player.

The new additions are forwards Van Karston and power forward Max Kruszeski, guards Eric Connolly, DeAndray Cain, Jake Okula, Walter Brigham and Nick Grathwohl, Zach’s brother.

“There’s a lot of kids on the team trying to prove [themselves] and right now it’s an open race” for positions, Grigonis said. He continued: “I see it as a positive. I see it as no one person is less relied on than the next. You need depth on a basketball team and I think we have the ability to have that this year. There’s a chance for a lot of guys to get [playing] time this year.”

Grigonis is preaching defense first and pushing the ball, but “we’re trying to figure out what type of team we’re going to be.” He said, “Everyone’s got to come to work everyday.”

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Photo caption: Julian Swann, an All-Conference junior center, brought Greenport 12 points and 15 rebounds per game last season. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)