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Boys Basketball: Change isn’t easy for Porters

Change is the name of the game in high school boys basketball. Players come and go. That’s the nature of the beast.

Greenport knows that as well as anybody. It was just last March when the Porters were New York State Class C semifinalists, holders of a shiny 21-3 record.

But a new season has brought new challenges. Stiff challenges.

Greenport has lost eight of its top 10 players from last season and doesn’t have much in the way of depth. For the new players, this has been on-the-job training.

With Greenport’s 69-58 non-league loss at Hampton Bays High School Saturday, the Porters suffered their eighth defeat in 10 games.

Basketball can be humbling. When the pendulum swings, it can really swing.

“Yeah, it’s definitely been different,” sophomore guard Ev Corwin said. “A lot of it is trying to build our chemistry. I think that’s one problem that we have. We don’t have the greatest chemistry yet, but I think that will come over time.”

Corwin and senior shooting guard Joshua Santacroce are the only remaining players who were on the varsity team for the entire 2018-19 season. Two sophomore guards, Jahmeek Freeman and Kevin Azama, had varsity experience entering this season. For the others, though, this is all new.

Even the team’s most experienced players, Santacroce and Corwin, are learning how to deal with changes.

“Big time,” Santacroce said. “We went from being role players to having to be leaders.”

Greenport coach Ev Corwin — father of the younger Corwin — likes it that his players don’t seem intimidated by the competition. “It’s a young group and we’ve played some good teams,” he said. “We played Southampton and Central Islip, Mattituck twice. Mattituck’s got a good team this year. The one thing about these guys is they really haven’t hung their heads during these bad losses.”

Hampton Bays (9-1 overall) represented a test. The sharpshooting Baymen showed their quality, breaking the game open with a 17-0 run for a 30-11 lead. Greenport couldn’t recover.

Lucas Brown had 11 points in the first quarter, 16 by halftime and finished with 19 to go with nine rebounds and five assists.

Hampton Bays comes at teams different ways. Jaden Ottati (16 points, four three-pointers), Jonathan Salas (13 points) and Jack McNamara (12 points, five assists) also hit double figures as the Baymen shot 51.1%.

Hampton Bays has proven it can rise to the challenge in crunch time. The Baymen have had two overtime wins, a triple-overtime triumph and one victory on a 65-footer at the buzzer by Steven Mora. Also, Ottati went 9-for-9 in three-pointers in a game earlier this season and McNamara sank 20 of 20 free throws in another game.

“We’ve had so many different guys step up in big spots,” Hampton Bays coach Pete Meehan said. “We just talked about being 9 and 1 and how easily it could be 4 and 6 or 5 and 5. There’s a fine line between winning and losing basketball games.”

It’s a line the Porters are hoping to cross.

Santacroce did his best, canning six three-pointers as part of a 20-point effort. Jalen Stilley added 11 points. Corwin turned in an all-around game with 10 points, eight steals, seven assists and three rebounds.

Rebounding and turnovers have been an issue for Greenport this season, but not so much on Saturday. The Porters held a 32-28 edge on the boards, with 11 rebounds coming from Donovan Lawrence.

“With a young team, we turn it over too much,” Coach Corwin said before the game. “We’re having an issue on the boards. That’s probably our biggest issue right now. Teams are just killing us on the boards. I haven’t had to worry about that in a long time.”

Greenport was coming off a 74-42 trouncing of Bridgehampton Friday, with a career-high 24 points from Corwin and 22 from Freeman. “We just needed a win,” said Coach Corwin.

Greenport started three sophomores and had an eighth-grader, Patrick Brennan, come off the bench.

“The best thing about sophomores is they turn into juniors and then they turn into seniors, so that’s a team that’s only going to get better,” Meehan said. “I saw [Coach] Ev said that … He said they’ll be back, and I believe him. They will be back. They have some parts. They’ve played a tough non-league schedule — tougher than us, tougher than us — and that only makes you better.”

Change is bound to happen.

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Photo caption: Greenport’s Jahmeek Freeman was called for a charging foul while trying to pass Hampton Bays’ Jaden Ottati. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)