Before the opening tip-off, Lucas Grigonis confessed to a feeling of unease. The small Smithtown Christian School gym, with its loud fans seated so close to the basketball court and a rubberized playing surface that’s different from most other gym floors, isn’t the easiest place for visiting teams to play.
That has certainly been true for Southold.
“Never easy,” said Grigonis, who played for Southold before going on to become its coach. “When I played here as a player it wasn’t easy. Coaching, I haven’t had an easy game yet.”
Southold never looked comfortable in its 66-47 defeat. Nick Grathwohl got into foul trouble early and was denied his opportunity to score his 1,000th career point after fouling out 2 minutes, 9 seconds into the third quarter of the Suffolk County League VIII game.
Grathwohl, who needed 17 points to reach 1,000, hit all three of his shots for eight points. The senior guard played only 8:36 because of foul trouble. After picking up his fourth foul, he was immediately assessed a technical foul for his fifth, sending him to the bench.
“The refs did us no favors in that aspect, but Nick has to work on that, I guess, to keep his emotions to himself,” said Grigonis.
Asked if this sort of thing had ever happened to him before, Grathwohl answered: “All the time. Players are just in my face, trying to get in my head or whatever. I try not to let it happen, but there are a lot of things that the refs didn’t see today and they just saw what I did, I guess, so I got called for them and taken out of the game.”
Grathwohl is now only nine points away from becoming the first Southold boy to score 1,000 points since 2015. It looks likely he will achieve that milestone in Southold’s next game at Greenport Thursday night. That will be the team’s sixth straight road game. Carl Stepnowsky (1987), Tim Stepnowsky (1990), Sean O’Hara (2006) and Liam Walker (2015) are Southold’s verified 1,000-point scorers, according to Grigonis.
An earlier chance for Grathwohl to reach the mark was missed Friday night when Bridgehampton forfeited to Southold because it didn’t have enough players, according to Grigonis. That result, though, officially recorded as a 2-0 win, clinched Southold a playoff berth for a third consecutive year.
Smithtown Christian (6-8, 6-2), which booked a playoff spot itself with Tuesday’s win, looked a lot better than it did in Southold on Dec. 12 when it lost, 61-44. Very similar to Tuesday’s score, except in reverse.
“The reason we lost today was we didn’t execute on either end,” said Grigonis.
The Knights came out strong, scored the game’s first 10 points and were off and running. They were also hitting their fair share of shots — 49.1% of them.
“I think we were just overwhelmed,” said Grathwohl.
Joshua Mangum hit enough of those shots to bring him 22 points as well as eight assists. Denmark Simon knocked down four three-pointers as part of his 16-point effort. Gabe Gibson added 15 points and John Ever pulled down 10 rebounds to go with six points.
With Grathwohl on the bench, Southold (10-6, 6-2) turned to Jaishaun McRae and Nick DeNicola to help run things. McRae had 13 points.
“The [atmosphere] is weird, the floor is weird but, I don’t know, our job is to adjust to that,” Southold senior Cole Brigham said. “We didn’t really do that well tonight. We can’t blame the court for our failures. We didn’t play well, and that’s on us.”
Grathwohl headed to the bench with two fouls already assessed to him just 3:10 into the game. He picked up a third foul in the second quarter and played only 6:27 of the opening 16:00. Later, he was sent to the bench for good.
Southold was already without another one of its principal scorers, senior Steven Russell, who watched the game from the bench dressed in street clothes because of a hamstring injury.
Asked if he could have expected the game to turn out the way it did, Grathwohl replied: “I never go into a game saying we’re going to lose. Some nights you just have really good nights and then you have really bad nights. This was just a bad night for us.”