February has come to signify one thing at Stony Brook: playoff basketball.
For the seventh straight year, and the 11th time in the last twelve, the boys’ basketball team is back in the Suffolk County Class C Championship. Over that span, the names have changed but the results have stayed the same. Pizzchillo, Pandolfi, Odom, Providence, and Vaughn have all run point. Carmel, Webster, Washington, Daniel, and Etienne have battled underneath. Knowles, Abrahamsen, Colarusso, O’Connor, Zhu, and D’Alessio have patrolled the perimeter. Singer, Meyer, Kayonga, and Bohuny have all come up with big plays in key moments. There is a common thread that runs through each of those names and many others over the years, and that is playing championship basketball.
To get back to a game that increasingly feels like their birthright, the Bears needed to get past a feisty Mercy team that they dispatched twice during the regular season by scores of 51-43 and 54-46. In both games the Bears failed to put the Monarchs away once they built a cushion and tonight would follow a similar script.
Both teams struggled to find their form in the first two minutes, but Owen Sobel finally broke the ice with a layup off of a nice feed from Jai Narain. The Monarchs nudged ahead with back-to-back scores, but the Bears’ full court pressure helped instigate a 7-2 run, capped by a Narain 3-pointer, as they took an early 9-6 edge. Mercy closed the gap with a bucket, but a pair of free throws from James Toney and a fastbreak layup by Andy D’Alessio gave the Bears a 13-8 advantage after one.
Both teams traded baskets early in the second frame, but a steal and layup by Sobel at the 4:30 mark spurred an 11-2 run that gave the Brook a 27-15 lead at the break. After Sobel’s pilfer, D’Alessio followed with a 3-pointer before Mercy answered with a basket to clip their deficit to 21-15. From there Sobel, Seamus Scanlon, and D’Alessio each scored layups to give the Bears a surge of momentum at intermission.
With their backs against the wall in hostile territory, the Monarchs responded with an impressive 7-0 run to begin the second half, quickly dispelling any hopes that this would be an easy Blue and White victory. D’Alessio finally broke the spurt with a layup, but Mercy responded to keep their deficit at five. The Bears pushed their advantage back to eight on three different occasions before the end of the quarter, but each time Mercy answered to keep the game within reach. A Sobel putback gave the Brook a 37-29 lead with 27 seconds left, but Mercy canned a 3-pointer to close within five points entering the fourth quarter.
Mercy displayed tremendous grit all evening, particularly on the offensive boards and in their transition defense. A scrappy team like that can be dangerous come playoff time because they are tough to put away. However, the Bears once again dipped into the reservoir that has fueled so many memorable playoff moments over the last decade. Narain opened the scoring with a 3-pointer at the 5:40 mark, then Emil Vaughn extended the lead back to double-digits with a steal and layup. Mercy answered with a free throw and a bucket, but Antonio Rizzo’s second 3-pointer with 4:04 left extended the lead back to 45-35. Twice more Mercy carved the lead back to single digits before a Sobel floater and a D’Alessio fastbreak layup with 2:11 left put the Bears up 51-39 and seemed to finally break the Monarchs’ spirit. The Bears would not be threatened the rest of the way en route to the 54-45 win.
D’Alessio led the Bears with 13 points while Sobel recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Narain (11), Toney (8), Rizzo (6), Vaughn (3), and Scanlon (2) rounded out the scoring.
The Bears move on to the County Championship set for Sunday at 3:30pm at Suffolk Community College–Selden. They face #1 Greenport whom the Bears upset in last year’s final, 49-35.
- The Bears have earned a place in the Class C Final in 11 out of the last 12 years, winning in 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017. They have won the last five titles, the longest streak in the history of Class C.
- Only two other teams (going at least as far back as 1987 when there is a gap in the Suffolk bracket archives) have made it to seven consecutive county finals: Bridgehampton (1995-2001) and Center Moriches (1995-2001).
- This is the Bears’ 14th straight victory over Mercy dating back to 2005 including two other postseason match-ups: the 2007 County Championship (43-32) and a 2009 semifinal (57-51).
- The Bears have won five of their last six home playoff games: 2007 vs. Pierson (56-31), 2008 vs. Southold (66-48), 2009 vs. Mercy (57-51), 2017 vs. Port Jeff (50-47) & 2018 vs. Mercy (54-45).