On Friday evening, the boys’ basketball team punched a postseason ticket for the 18th straight year thanks to a 52-45 victory over Port Jeff. The Bears’ playoff run is the second-longest active streak in Suffolk County behind Amityville, who has not missed the playoffs since 1980.
The Bears needed the win in order to finish .500 in League VII and earn an automatic playoff spot while Port Jeff, sub .500 in the league, needed the win to strengthen their resume for a potential appeal. It was therefore a playoff game of sorts for both squads and the Bears seized the precious momentum early in an 18-7 opening quarter. Owen Sobel scored seven points in the first and Antonio Rizzo connected on a pair of 3-pointers to give the Bears a comfortable edge after one.
In the second quarter, the Royals cut their deficit to eight points, but Rizzo followed with a tough, lefty layup and drew the foul to push the lead back to 11. Port Jeff responded with a 3-point play of their own to energize the senior day crowd, but Rizzo silenced the home stands by draining his third 3-pointer of the game with just eight seconds left in the half to give the Bears a 30-19 edge at the break.
Port Jeff began the third quarter with a sense of urgency, using a pair of 3-pointers to power an 8-2 spurt that slashed their deficit to four. Sobel responded with a layup and Andy D’Alessio followed with a key 3-pointer to push the Bear lead back to nine. A Seamus Scanlon jumper gave the Brook a double-digit lead at 40-29, but the Royals refused to go away as they bookended an Emil Vaughn free throw with a bucket and a 3-pointer to draw within seven points entering the decisive final quarter.
Rizzo canned his fourth 3-pointer of the game early in the fourth, but Port Jeff responded with back-to-back scores to pull within four points with 2:59 left. After the Bears came up empty on the ensuing possession, the Royals missed a golden opportunity to make it a one-possession game when they missed a point blank layup at the two-minute mark. It would prove to be their final gasp. A Jai Narain layup with 56 seconds left gave the Bears some breathing room, but the Royals banked in a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left that pulled them back within 48-43. But that is as close as they would get as a pair of Sobel free throws with 15.8 seconds left and a last second fastbreak layup from D’Alessio provided the final margin.
Sobel led all scorers with 17 points and added 13 rebounds while Rizzo scored a career-high 15 points, each of which seemed to come at big moments. D’Alessio (8 points/ two 3-pointers), Narain (7), Scanlon (3), and Vaughn (2) rounded out the scoring. The defense also held the Royals’ leading scorer, Grant Calendrille, to just four points, his second-lowest total of the season.
This is the Bears’ ninth win in a row over the Royals dating back to 2011. It is also their sixth straight victory on Port Jeff’s home court where they have not lost since 2002. The Bears move on to the postseason which will likely begin for them on Thursday. Section XI’s seeding committee meets Tuesday morning but the Bears are all but assured of the #2 seed in the Class C tournament and a home playoff game thanks to their 7-1 record against C competition.