One topic has dominated the conversation this week in Greenport: the hometown Porters’ championship journey.
Purple and gold balloons line the streets in front of many businesses. Signs hang outside others urging the boys basketball team success. Patrons at the bar at Andy’s last Saturday kept jotting down the score of Greenport’s Southeast Region championship game as it flashed on the screen, thanks to a Facebook livestream, so they could quickly relay it to anyone who walked in.
The Porters’ 78-63 victory Saturday against Section I champion Alexander Hamilton at Pace University has generated the kind of buzz around Greenport that rivals response to the great Ryan Creighton team in 2009, when the Porters came within a game of a state championship.
“The [players] just love basketball, love to compete, love to practice and I think so many of them are homegrown and have parents and relatives that are here and have gone through the school, it’s just galvanized the entire area,” said Kevin Webster, the Southold Town assessor who provided play-by-play of the game via Facebook to thrilled fans scattered across the country.
The Porters advance to the Class C state semifinals beginning 3 p.m. Friday in Binghamton against undefeated Lake George. The winner will play in the state championship Saturday night.
Andy Harbin, co-owner of Andy’s, said he plans to stream Friday’s game on the big screens as well, if possible.
“It’ll be really cool,” he said. “We’ll have the NCAA Tournament on one TV and next to it we’ll have Greenport in their own Final Four.”
Balloons were hanging outside Goldberg’s Monday morning, where the players who frequent the bagel shop were given free breakfasts after their win.
“We support all the high school kids,” manager Brian Haggerty said. “My brother and I, we’re from Long Island originally, but we grew up in a small town upstate. We really connect with the small-town, hometown feel and just how much support the boys get from the town is crazy.”
The Greenport Fire Department sent the Porters off with an escort through the village Saturday and greeted the winning team on its return later that night. The team is scheduled to leave at 9 a.m. Thursday and the players will receive a districtwide champions march through the school before departing.
Fans are also encouraged to line the streets down Front Street and Main Road to cheer the players as they depart.
“From tip-off to the final buzzer, their passion is contagious, thrilling for every second of every game,” said Greenport High School principal Gary Kalish. “I am so proud of them and can’t wait until this weekend.”
Crystal Anderson, mother of sophomore sensation Ahkee Anderson, helped organize a bus trip for fans to attend Friday’s game for $75. She reached out to Hampton Jitney to secure a bus after the team’s win last weekend. The company was fully booked for Friday, but found a way to assist the group though through a partner company. The bus will leave at 9 a.m. Friday and will return after the game ends. Another bus may be booked if the team wins Saturday.
“It’s been a major buzz,” Ms. Anderson said. “I couldn’t be more thankful and I couldn’t be more proud in this moment of everything that’s going on. All in all, it really is history being made.”
Mr. Webster said Porter Pride was on display last weekend when Greenport fans outnumbered the Hamilton fans, even though the opposing team’s high school was only about seven miles away. He said he expects another big turnout in Binghamton, with alumni in Buffalo, Oneonta, Syracuse and elsewhere planning to attend.
And if not, Mr. Webster said he’ll do his best do keep the fans at home updated.
“I really get excited about bringing this to the greater Greenport community,” he said.
Photo caption: Greenport boys basketball players Jude Swann (left) and Tyrus Smiley were all smiles Saturday upon their return to Greenport. Their bus had received a fire department escort following the team’s Southeast Region championship win. (Credit: Linda Ferguson)