As the Greenport boys basketball team bus journeyed down the Main Road and then on the Long Island Expressway, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation among the players.
After all, it is not every day, a high school team gets an opportunity to play at the Nassau Coliseum.
“It was just fun on the way here. Just being excited to come to a place like this,” senior guard-forward Taiquan Brumsey said about the two-hour bus ride.
The Porters, however, could not translate that excitement and energy onto the court in the first half. They got off to a slow start and suffered a 51-29 defeat to Carle Place in a non-league encounter in Uniondale Saturday.
“Today’s game was definitely a big experience,” Greenport head coach Justin Moore said. “A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to play in the Nassau Coliseum. So, that was definitely good. The outcome is not what we wanted but taking the experience, we’ll learn from it.”
There was plenty to learn as the Porters discovered early in the second game of a doubleheader. The Porters girls dropped a 50-25 decision to their Carle Place counterparts earlier Saturday afternoon.
Junior guard Kal-El Marine knotted the score at 2-2 with a basket 2:13 after the opening tip-off before the Frogs rattled off 15 consecutive points to grab an imposing 17-2 advantage by the end of the first quarter. Chris Zannino scored 14 of his 19 points during the period.
“It’s tough,” Marine said. “We’ve just got to come out stronger. I feel like the score doesn’t really show how good we are compared to the other team. We just could have played a lot better.”
With five points from Marine (a trey and a two-point basket) and a Brumsey field goal, Greenport cut the lead to 40-27 with 5:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Frogs (4-4), however, went on an 11-2 run to close out the contest.
Slow starts have plagued the Porters (1-4) this young season.
In the Suffolk County League VII opener at Southold on Dec. 19, Greenport was in a 17-7 first-quarter hole on the way to a 49-45 loss. They rebounded from that game with a 16-13 first period in a 74-51 win at Ross two days later, buoyed by Brumsey’s 33 points.
Moore wanted to see more consistency.
“We have to come out with more focus and more energy,” he said. “We have been putting ourselves in the hole and trying to dig out of the hole has just been a little too deep in these games. If we can start these games off better, I like our chances against any team.”
After the Christmas break, the Porters will get into the heart of their league schedule. Since there are only two Class C schools in the county, Greenport will focus on defeating rival Southold, who they will face in the division final.
“We played them once. It was an upsetting loss, but I think we can get better,” Marine said. “We came out slow. The second half was a lot better for us that game. We already have added motivation. If we want to go to playoffs, we’ve got to look at Southold.”
Regardless of the result, the experience of playing in a professional venue will stay with the Porters forever.
“Just a crazy experience,” Marine said. “It’s a perfect court, perfect rooms, everything. The stadium is great.”
“Coming into a place like this makes you feel more than just like a high school player,” said Brumsey, who scored 10 points. “Hopefully, we can come to this again later in the season.”
Brumsey likely was talking about playing at the state finals in upstate Glens Falls.
It was a special time for Moore as well.
“The biggest thing that stood out is how many seats there are and how special playing here is,” he said. “I came here as a kid for concerts and stuff. So, I know how big of a stadium it is and how many legendary things happened right here. For us to be playing here and me coaching here in my second year as head coach is a blessing. That’s all you can even ask for. Obviously, you want to win the game but being here and having this experience is amazing.”