What better way to celebrate going to high school boys basketball’s big dance than by, well, dancing?
Much like his team, Ev Corwin was feeling it. After raising the Southeast Region Class C championship plaque above his head, the Greenport coach, surrounded by a circle of his clapping players, broke out into an impromptu dance. Call it a dance for joy.
“That’s funny,” Greenport guard Ahkee Anderson told reporters. “He’s pumped up.”
For good reason, too. After battling Tuckahoe through the first half, Greenport’s quality shined through. The Porters turned it on, gained separation and claimed their fifth regional championship Saturday, and with it, an invitation to the state semifinals.
Greenport’s Big Three lived up to their shared nickname. They came up big in a big game.
Ahkee Anderson and brothers Jaxan and Jude Swann accounted for 72 points as Greenport rolled, 91-77, at Centereach High School.
“They showed up to the party tonight ready to dance,” said Corwin.
With the victory, the Porters earned a shot at redemption — a return trip to Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, where they lost in the state semifinals last year to Lake George. Greenport will play Cooperstown or Unadilla Valley March 16.
“We’re going upstate,” said Anderson.
Advancing past this stage is no small relief.
“If we lose today, it’s a disaster for us,” Corwin said. “Every person will tell you that. It’s such a big load off our mind. Now we’re back in the final four.”
Playing its first game in 21 days, Greenport (21-2) didn’t show signs of rust, but the Porters found themselves in a first-half fight with determined Tuckahoe (17-7). The Tigers led for a good deal of the opening half before Greenport went on a 16-3 run (Zach Riggins netted six of his 12 points during the spurt) for a 54-41 lead. “Zach Riggins gave us a big shot in the arm today,” said Corwin.
It was a lead the Porters never relinquished. They stretched their advantage to as many as 18 points late in the fourth quarter.
“The score kept running up,” said Jaxan Swann, who had 27 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, six steals and two turnovers.
As a team, Greenport shot 59.3 percent from the field. “The more good shots we get, the more confident we are,” said Jude Swann.
Anderson was on his game, hitting for 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting (4 of 7 from three-point distance). The junior also had seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Jude Swann put together 17 points and eight rebounds.
“Everyone just came out today prepared and ready to go,” Anderson said. “Everyone had the hot hand tonight. Everyone was making their shots. It worked in our favor.”
The Big Three are the givens, though.
“I expect those three to have those games,” Corwin said. “They come out there and they’re guns ablazing. They’re just a special group. They really help the other guys.
“Ev [Corwin Jr., the coach’s son] has one of the best mentors” in Anderson. “He’s got a mentor like Ahkee, who’s on his butt during the game. You can’t buy that. Julian [works with] Zach and Reese [Costello], helps them out.”
Malik Moore turned in a tremendous game for Tuckahoe, totaling 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Ivan Hernandez added 16 points.
A Jaxan Swann three-point shot from the right corner appeared to be the final dagger, making the score 77-61. Tuckahoe cut the deficit to 10 points when a pair of Moore free throws made it 86-76, but there were only 37.5 seconds left. Moore had been sent to the line on Jude Swann’s fifth personal foul, sending him to the bench. Tuckahoe’s Mekhi Clark and Roger Burwell also fouled out in the final minute.
Tuckahoe has something Greenport doesn’t: two state championships. The Porters don’t have one. That’s something they want to rectify next weekend in Binghamton.
“We’re trying to make history in Greenport, the first team to ever win a state championship,” Jaxan Swann said. “We have no state championships in Greenport for any sport. I feel like this is the time when we can do it.”
Photo caption: Greenport players celebrate after winning their fifth regional championship, and with it a return to the New York State Class C semifinals. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)