Sometime on Christmas morning, Ev Corwin figures he will receive a text from senior guard Jaxan Swann asking him if he could open the Greenport High School gymnasium so he and his teammates can play some basketball that day.
The Porters’ boys basketball coach will oblige because he realizes that the game is in his players’ DNA because they love to play and practice it so much.
“I get texts all the time,” Corwin said. “Sunday we don’t have practice. ‘Hey coach, can we go down and get into the gym?’ I’m lucky I live two blocks away from the school. So, I go open the gym, the boys are in there, shooting the ball. They just like to be around each other. They’ve been playing together so long. It makes it easy.
“These guys are true gym rats. It’s one of the things that makes them good.”
On Friday night in front of a packed house at Southold High School, the Porters weren’t merely good, they were excellent in an 82-45 victory in a Suffolk County League VII game.
Some of the huge margin of victory can be attributed to Greenport’s talent. Some of that can be attributed to the players’ passion for the game.
“We’re actually in the gym every day,” said Swann, who collected a game-high 26 points.
“If the gym’s open, we’re in there,” added junior guard Ahkee Anderson, who finished with 23 points and 12 assists.
Besides, there is a Holiday Invitational tournament next Friday at Suffolk County Community College. The Porters will take on Bayport-Blue Point and will face either Riverhead or Southampton Saturday.
“We don’t want to go into a game Saturday, especially in a Christmas tournament, just from not playing basketball, shots just not falling,” Anderson said. “So we want to stay consistent and shoot all the time.”
And there is another competition that is in the back of the players’ minds — the state tournament. Last season the Porters lost in the Class C state semifinals to Lake George, 78-53, in Binghamton. They want to return there again this March.
“Everyone really wants to work,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a goal in mind. We know that if we want to reach it, we’ve got to put the work in.”
Greenport (6-1, 3-0) certainly put in the work Friday night, deploying an alert defense that keeps the opposition on its toes. Many times Southold players wound up chasing Greenport players after turnovers and steals. The visitors forced the First Settlers (2-4, 0-2) into 23 turnovers, 11 alone in the opening quarter. They turned eight turnovers into 16 points. Ten of those points came via five steals by Swann, who quite appropriately scored the first basket on a takeaway only 38 seconds into the game.
“A lot of them dribble with their heads down with the same move and once to one side,” Swann said. “It was just easy defense for me.”
Added Corwin: “This team, when it’s moving like that defensively, sometimes it looks like it’s seven guys out there, the way the guards are moving. When we’re going well, we’re scoring off our defense up and down the floor. That’s when we’re in our comfort zone.”
The Porters did everything well — defense, transition, rebounding, ballhandling and, of course, shooting. They were devastating from two-point range, connecting on 66.6 percent of their attempts (33 of 55).
Greenport made short work of the Settlers, bolting out to a stunning 16-0 advantage with 2 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the opening quarter before Nick Grathwohl (team-high 20 points) scored Southold’s first points on a trey 11 seconds later. Anderson and Swann led the way with six points apiece during that surge, although the former finished the opening quarter with 14 points.
Swann felt the huge crowd motivated the Porters. “Greenport is never that full,” he said. “It’s like a whole lot of energy.”
Center Jude Swann controlled the middle with 13 points and 18 rebounds.
“I definitely had a blast, especially … everyone coming out and having a good game,” Anderson said. “That’s what makes me happy. It doesn’t matter what I do. I like to see everyone else shine.”
By the time the Settlers recovered it was too late, although they did play much better in the second half.
“First half we looked like we weren’t ready to come and play,” coach Lucas Grigonis said. “Second half we showed that we can at least fight and try to execute what we’re trying to do against a higher quality team.”
Especially one that loves to practice every day.