It’s all or nothing.
That’s the way the Greenport High School boys basketball team looks at its venture into the final four of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. For the Porters, the only happy ending would be them lifting a state championship plaque.
“They want to win the next two games and anything other than that for these guys is a disappointment,” coach Ev Corwin said. “Right or wrong, that’s how they feel.”
All the achievements, accolades and support — which Corwin called “overwhelming” — up till now would be soured should they not reach their lofty goal: their first state title.
It’s not an easy hill to climb. Greenport (23-3) will have its work cut out Friday afternoon when it faces Lake George (26-0) in a state Class C semifinal at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. Lake George is ranked first in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association; Greenport is third.
Lake George is bidding for a second state championship in four years. Beating the Warriors could be considered a tall order — literally. Lake George has height in 6-7 junior center Chris Becker (15.1 points per game), 6-5 junior forward Mason Flatley (15.5) and 6-4 senior forward Caleb Scrime (15.7). Alex Jones, a senior point guard, averages 14.2 points a game.
Not that Greenport doesn’t have a mighty arsenal of its own, led by the duo of sophomore guard Ahkee Anderson and 6-3 junior center Jude Swann. Anderson rang up 28 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in Greenport’s 78-63 defeat of Alexander Hamilton in a regional final Saturday at Pace University. Anderson is 26 points away from 1,000 over two seasons. Swann was a force against Hamilton as well, collecting 22 points and 17 rebounds.
“We’re showing that we can play with anyone and we’re really doing our thing,” Anderson said after that game.
By the time Greenport takes the court Friday, the other semifinal between Tully (21-4) and Northstar Christian Academy (24-1) will have been played. The final is set for Saturday night.
The Porters are as healthy as they have been all season and Corwin likes what he has seen. “Everybody’s just locked in,” he said. “These are the best practices that we’ve had. These guys are just flying.”
Like Lake George, Greenport brings a barrage of offense. Anderson averages 23 points and eight assists per game and Jude Swann averages 17 points and 14 rebounds. Jaxan Swann and Jordan Fonseca are both good for 15 points each. Those four are the regular starters along with Tyrus Smiley.
Greenport is also getting quality contributions off the bench from the likes of Myles Murray, Matt Tuthill and Reese Costello.
“I would say that they would be starters on every team in our league,” Corwin said. “There’s no doubt about that. The fact that they embrace their roles, they come hard to play every day, those are the little things that make a team successful. We know what the big dogs can do.”
Corwin and assistant coaches Rodney Shelby and Ryan Creighton are the only three remaining members of the last Greenport party to reach the state final four nine years ago. Corwin and Shelby were both assistant coaches for Al Edwards and Creighton was the team’s star player.
“I didn’t realize it was that long ago,” Corwin said when he was reminded of that fact.
Greenport had never reached the state final four before making three straight trips as a Class D team. Following semifinal losses the first two times, the Porters reached their first state final in 2009, losing to South Kortright, 47-43. That was the last game in Creighton’s high school career. He remains Greenport’s all-time leading scorer with 2,799 points.
Should Greenport lose Friday or Saturday, it will still go down as one of the best seasons in team history. Even so, Greenport’s goal for this season isn’t to win a regional title.
“This team is really on a mission,” Corwin said. “That’s the only way I can put it. Two more games. We got a big test, a big test.”
Photo caption: Jaxan Swann does a victory dance following Greenport’s win over Alexander Hamilton in a regional final Saturday. (Credit: Ray Nelson, file)