With Jordan Fonseca hobbled by an ailing ankle, Myles Murray figured he would see a little more playing time than usual Saturday, but he couldn’t have foreseen the impact he would have on the game.
In the alphabet soup that is the Suffolk County boys basketball tournament, Greenport reached the end in the Class BCD final, no small thanks to CM — as in Center Moriches.
Murray was inserted in the game in the second quarter. Thanks in part to his efforts, Greenport avoided what had the makings of a blowout and made things interesting. After running out to a large early lead, Center Moriches staved off the surging Porters, 81-72, for its 16th straight win at Sachem North High School’s Thomas J. Sabatelle Alumni Gymnasium. The Red Devils’ last loss was by 12 points to Greenport on Dec. 22. Greenport’s 15-game win streak was snapped.
Center Moriches will play Amityville for the small schools title Monday night at William Floyd High School. The Red Devils also have a Class B regional semifinal against Malverne March 9 or 11 at a site to be announced.
Greenport will play Nassau County champion East Rockaway in a Class C regional semifinal March 6 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
Greenport (21-3) pulled to within three points of Center Moriches (20-2) three times in the fourth quarter, the last time when a Tyrus Smiley layup made the score 68-65 with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
But, as it did all game, Center Moriches answered back, this time with layups by Troy Goode (22 points) and Sean Braithwaite (26 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks).
Then Greenport’s Jaxan Swann swished a three-pointer.
Center Moriches’ response was a Dylan Bryant three from the corner and a steal and a layup by Tyiquon Nix (13 points, five assists), making it 77-66.
Goode and Braithwaite both sank a pair of foul shots in the final 27.7 seconds to wrap up the victory. Center Moriches shot 21-for-24 from the foul line.
“I thought we showed tremendous resiliency and championship character,” said Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas, whose team wants to return to the state Class B final four. “We’re battle-tested. Greenport is a good team. They put up a good fight. We didn’t quite play our ‘A’ game, but we played well enough to win.”
Prior to the game, Section XI boys basketball chairman Bob Mayo had joked with a clock operator that the shot clock wouldn’t be necessary. Both teams like to run and gun.
“To me it’s never fast enough for our team,” said Greenport coach Ev Corwin.
Center Moriches stormed out to a 28-9 lead, Braithwaite and Edmond Frazier (nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) putting up seven points apiece during that run, as the game opened at a frenetic pace.
It looked as if a rout was in the making. Then Murray made his entrance into the game and good things started happening for the Porters. It was instant energy.
“Myles, he just gave us such a spark,” Corwin said. “I know he’s fearless. That’s one thing about him, he’s never going to back down. Today he really showed what he can do.”
Greenport had five players score, and they were all in double figures: Ahkee Anderson (22 points), Smiley (16), Jude Swann (13), Jaxan Swann (11) and Murray (10). Jaxan Swann also had 14 assists, and Jude Swann grabbed 13 rebounds.
Asked what his role on the team is, Murray answered: “An energizer. I like to come in and run the floor fast and get steals.”
The 6-1 senior forward came off the bench and gave Greenport some much-needed energy, which helped the Porters pull to within 11 by halftime at 38-27. Murray had eight points and five rebounds in the quarter. Not only that, but he looked at home, jostling for position with Center Moriches’ big bodies.
“It was very unexpected, but it was big for our team,” Smiley said. “I think he played amazing. Out of all us, I think he showed up the best just because he was the spark.”
For the second half, Corwin had Murray guard Braithwaite, no easy task. “He did a heck of a job on that kid,” Corwin said. “I just loves the way he plays. The best thing about him is he’s so physical and he’s all about contact.”
Murray said: “I just like to help my team any way. I’ve never been afraid of contact. If somebody tries to body me, I’ll give it right back.”
Murray grew up in Greenport and played JV ball for the Porters as a freshman before spending his sophomore and junior years at a boarding school in Connecticut. Now he said he’s enjoying this run with the Porters.
“I have not played my greatest basketball this season but it’s fun being on a team like this,” Murray said. Greenport started slow on Saturday, he said, “but we kept coming back, kept fighting, kept our heads up, which is a good sign going further into the playoffs.”
Photo caption: Greenport senior forward Myles Murray putting up a jump shot against Center Moriches. (Credit: Garret Meade)