Hamilton was playing Saturday, but it was Greenport that received the rave reviews.
Two Greenport basketball players, in particular, stood out. Ahkee Anderson and Jude Swann were at their best when the Porters needed them most. They came though in a big way as the Porters won their first regional championship since 2009, earning a place in the New York State Class C semifinals.
Section I champion Alexander Hamilton had no answer for Anderson, Swann and the rest of the Porters, who left little doubt about their plans for next week with a 78-63 victory in the Southeast Region final at Pace University in Pleasantville.
When it ended, assistant coach Justin Moore was the first to dance in the middle of a circle of Porters, and then it was junior guard Jaxan Swann’s turn. Senior guard Jordan Fonseca was the first to raise the championship plaque amid the cheers of traveling Greenport fans.
Jude Swann called it “history.”
With this, Greenport (22-3) earned a place in the state semifinals for a fourth time Friday against Lake George (26-0) at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. The state final will be played Saturday night in the same arena.
“We’re so happy,” Anderson said. “We know we’re not really supposed to be here. We’re from Greenport, this little town. We’re showing that we can play with anyone and we’re really doing our thing.”
Greenport did its thing pretty much from start to finish Saturday. Anderson put up a game-high 28 points, shooting 11-for-24 from the field. The sophomore guard also had nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks, turning the ball over three times. Meanwhile, Jude Swann was a handful for Hamilton (18-6) to deal with. The 6-3 junior center accounted for 22 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out with 1 minute, 35 seconds left and the game safe in hand.
“To me it’s pick your poison,” said coach Ev Corwin.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fonseca and Myles Murray brought Greenport 11 points each.
Hamilton, which never led, received 17 points apiece from Chris Green and Kemron Frederick (6-for-9). Chris Harris added 10.
“Everyone contributed,” said Jude Swann, who told Corwin before the playoffs started that he would put the team on his back. “I felt real confident. I felt it was going to be a close game, then we just started running.”
Greenport is ranked eighth in the state, one notch above Hamilton, by the New York State Sportswriters Association poll. They were separated by more than that, though, on Saturday.
At 11:09 a.m. the Porters sauntered into the gym to applause from the early-arriving Greenport fans, dressed in purple for the noon start. Wearing serious looks on their faces, the Porters seemed ready for business. Then they proved it.
Greenport came out strong, with Anderson and Fonseca nailing three-pointers from the same spot in the corner.
Murray came off the bench and gave Greenport a surge, as he is prone to do. Murray canned his first four field-goal attempts (one a three) for nine first-quarter points that pushed the Porters to a 25-10 lead.
Greenport opened the second quarter with a Fonseca layup, a Jude Swann bucket, a Jude Swann free throw and a Jude Swann putback, making it 32-14.
With the aid of 10 points from Green, Hamilton was able to whittle down Greenport’s lead to 40-31 by halftime. The Red Raiders closed the half on a 13-2 run, six of those points by Green.
Jude Swann had 14 points by halftime on 6-for-11 shooting.
Hamilton ran off 12 straight points, capped by a Frederick layup that cut the Greenport lead to 40-37 early in the third quarter. Was it time for the Porters to worry?
“I was never really worried,” Anderson said. “I just knew how hungry the guys were. When we went into that huddle, me and Jude were like, ‘It’s time to go.’ ”
Sure enough, Greenport gave itself more breathing room. Jude Swann and Anderson scored 12 of Greenport’s next 16 points for a 56-41 lead.
“We played good,” Anderson said. “Everyone was just aggressive on both sides of the court. Our main focus was rebounding. We didn’t give up any second-chance points.”
Greenport outrebounded Hamilton, 56-35, and allowed the Red Raiders only six offensive rebounds.
“They’re an easy team to root for,” Corwin said. “They’re all for each other, really. It’s a great thing when you have talent and also unselfishness and chemistry. It’s a beautiful combination. It doesn’t happen all the time and when it does, it’s just fun to be a part of it.”
The fun isn’t over yet for the Porters.
“We’re putting Greenport on the map,” Anderson said. “We ain’t done yet.”
Photo caption: Greenport raised a regional championship plaque for the first time since 2009 on Saturday. (Credit: Ray Nelson)