The boys’ basketball team began the defense of its three Suffolk County Championships this evening with a 78-60 non-league victory over Mercy.
It was the first match-up between the Bears and Monarchs since a County Semifinal thriller on Feb. 17, 2009. The Bears pulled out the win, 57-51, thanks to three fourth quarter 3-pointers from Tim Pandolfi. Tonight’s game had no such drama, but there was still plenty for the Blue Fan Group to get excited about.
Chester Kayonga opened the scoring for the Brook with his first of four 3-pointers on the night. Both offenses had some rust to knock off and points were hard to come by in the opening minutes. Mercy took a slim 10-8 lead late in the quarter, but five straight points from Kayonga, on two free throws and a 3-pointer, gave the Bears a 13-10 lead after one.
In the second quarter, the Bears took control of the game thanks to a smothering defense. The Monarchs had no answer for the Bears’ full-court press that yielded nine steals in the quarter and a litany of other turnovers. The defensive play of the frame was a block by Jyles Etienne in which he simply engulfed the ball. The Bears’ offense kicked into gear as they scored the first eight points of the quarter, courtesy of two free throws and a 3-pointer from Luke O’Connor and another 3-pointer from Kayonga. The Brook pushed the lead to as much as 18 in the frame and took a 38-21 edge into the break.
During the halftime locker room talk, coach Mike Hickey was pleased with the effort, but emphasized the need for better help defense and cleaner possessions.
The Bears set the tone on the first defensive possession of the third quarter, forcing a shot clock violation and making it clear that there would be no comeback for the Monarchs. After a Mac Bohuny layup, Mercy scored four straight points to get within 40-26, but a Brandon Providence steal and score pushed the lead back to 16. On the ensuing possession the Bears extinguished any remaining flicker of hope in their East End rivals. After a Mercy miss, Etienne rebounded the ball and gave an outlet pass to Providence. Providence pushed it up the right sideline, drove, and dished it to Etienne who elevated in traffic and threw down a thunderous, two-handed dunk that sent the Swanson faithful into pandemonium. The fans were brought to their feet again when Providence hit an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, with two men on him, to put the Brook up 62-40 heading into the fourth. From there the Blue and White cruised to a 78-60 win.
There were plenty of heroes in tonight’s victory. Kayonga led all scorers with 20 points while adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds. O’Connor scored 17 points and connected on four of the Bears’ eleven 3-pointers. Bohuny scored 11 points and added 6 steals and a block. Brandon Providence netted 8 points, played excellent on-ball defense, and handled the ball well. Etienne, while only scoring 4 points due to some early foul trouble, was a defensive force inside with 3 blocks. James Toney (6 points), John Eshirow (6), Emil Vaughn (3), and Harry Zhu (3) rounded out the scoring with quality minutes.
This is the Bears’ sixth straight win over Mercy. They have not dropped a game to the Monarchs since Jan. 12, 2006. Coach Mike Hickey is now 24-5 all-time against Mercy and 295-184 all-time as head coach of the Bears.
The Bears will take the court again on Saturday in a non-league game vs. Rocky Point @ 6:00pm.