The door to the Greenport locker room remained closed for a while. One could only imagine the scene inside as the Porters tried to compose themselves and come to terms with the fact that their basketball season had just ended with a second straight loss in the New York State Class C semifinals.
When the players and coaches finally emerged, the picture became clear. It was a picture of exhaustion. Utter exhaustion: physically, emotionally and mentally.
After playing 48 minutes and three overtimes, Greenport had to reconcile the fact that, once again, it had fallen just short of a place in a state final. Not even the drama of playing in a historical game could lessen that blow.
A record-setting 53-point performance by Jack Lambert put Cooperstown over the top in a 108-98 shootout over Greenport Saturday at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. The combined 206 points is a state tournament record, easily eclipsing the 179 produced in a Traditional-Hutchinson game in 1982.
Cooperstown (25-2) will play for its first state title tomorrow against Middle Early College (22-4).
Greenport (21-3), meanwhile, begins its offseason.
The Porters appeared devastated by the loss. When the game ended, a number of them held their heads in their hands, looking down. Some cried and were consoled by coaches or teammates.
Greenport coach Ev Corwin, wearing a reddened face when he emerged from the locker room to meet the media, said of his players: “It’s tough. I feel for them.”
Ahkee Anderson, who led Greenport with 30 points, said: “It was an historical game … Win or lose, we know we played hard. Everyone played so hard.”
Anderson, a junior guard who also had nine rebounds, seven steals and six assists, was named to the all-tournament team. He also spent the day going to nose to nose on both sides of the ball with Lambert.
Lambert was relentless. The 6-2 senior scored 12 points in the third overtime to help Cooperstown close the game on a 17-7 run. For the game he shot 20-for-32 from the field (4-for-7 on three-point attempts) and drained nine of 11 free throws.
Lambert’s 53 points exceeded the previous state tournament record of 47 that was shared by Hamilton’s Adonal Foyle (1994) and Jamesville-DeWitt’s Bernard Blunt (1990).
Anderson called Lambert “one of the best players I’ve seen.”
Corwin said Lambert “was amazing today. He just made big shot after big shot.”
Furthermore, Cooperstown’s 6-8 sophomore, John Kennedy, was an artist and force majeure in the paint. The big man had 25 points on 11-for-15 field-goal shooting and scored 22 of his points in the paint. He also came down with 22 rebounds.
“I never saw that type of play out of him on tape, and that’s why … I kind of take with a grain of salt what I watch on tape,” Corwin said. “The kid was a much, much better player offensively than I had seen and defensively very smart. He is a big detour there.”
Both teams showed extraordinary resilience throughout, battling back after falling behind. Still, Anderson said, “We weren’t expecting it to go to three overtimes.”
An Anderson layup and a Jaxan Swann three-point play gave Greenport a 75-73 edge with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But then Lambert — there’s that player again — hit a jumper from the right wing, making it 75-all. Anderson attempted a two-pointer that struck the front rim.
On to overtime.
Greenport’s big man, 6-4 senior Jude Swann (18 points, 12 rebounds), fouled out with 35 seconds left in the first OT and his team trailing, 84-82. (Cooperstown’s Ryan Lansing had fouled out earlier in the period.) But Anderson calmly drained two foul shots with 30 seconds to go. An Anderson steal gave Greenport another shot at the basket, but the Porters missed. Lambert came down with the rebound and charged down the court while being hounded by Anderson and Jaxan Swann, who blocked his shot as time expired.
On to OT No. 2.
Cooperstown led, 91-86, in the second extra session before a Zach Riggins layup and an Anderson three-pointer evened things at 91-91. Later, Greenport played for the last shot, but Jaxan Swann’s deep three attempt fell short.
On to OT No. 3.
Greenport’s magic finally ran out. Cooperstown used a 14-1 burst to surge ahead, 102-95, with 52 seconds left. The writing was on the wall. An Anderson layup cut the Cooperstown lead to six points, but Lambert buried four free throws in the final 21 seconds to ice it.
“It feels like we just played 10 games,” said Corwin.
Cooperstown also received 12 points from Calvin Sandler.
Jaxan Swann had 26 points in his final game for Greenport. “It was fun while it lasted because me and my brothers all know we gave it our all,” the senior guard said. “It was a fun game, and that’s all it is. It’s supposed to be fun. We had fun today.”
Everett Corwin Jr. supplied Greenport with 11 points.
Greenport, supported by a healthy (and vocal) turnout of fans, has a 1-6 career record in the state final four, reaching a state final once in a four-point loss to South Kortright in 2009. The Porters were determined to be state champions this year.
“I thought this was the year they were going to get their true reward,” Coach Corwin said. “I really, really felt that, but it’s a gauntlet. It’s tough. It’s a long, long process. We ran into a buzz saw.”
“I’m just more upset for my guys,” he added. “They’re a great group of kids. I just really feel awful for them.”
Facing the glare of television lights, Anderson said, “This was a tough one.”
Photo caption: Greenport assistant coach Ryan Creighton consoles Everett Corwin Jr. after the Porters’ triple-overtime loss to Cooperstown in the state Class C semifinals in Binghamton. (Credit: Jeff Miller)