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Top 5: Basketball Playoff Upsets

March 17, 2018
B Basketball 2010 Counties

The Bears celebrate the 2010 County Championship

Last night UMBC engineered the greatest upset in the history of college basketball by becoming the first 16-seed to defeat a #1 seed in a 74-54 victory over the University of Virginia.

It gave us a reason to look back on some great basketball playoff upsets in our own history. We looked for ten, to keep in line with our many Top 10 lists, but it was hard to find many upsets, mostly because our boys’ and girls’ teams have enjoyed the top seed during most of their playoff runs, including a combined 13 times since 2006. So we came up with five. The girls’ team is underrepresented on this list, mostly because they earned the top seed in their last seven playoff appearances prior to this season, and numerous times before that. So here are the top five greatest playoff upsets in Stony Brook basketball history.

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Boys’ Basketball vs. Wyandanch | Feb. 19, 1994

The boys’ basketball team earned its first playoff victory since entering the public school league 20 years earlier by defeating Wyandanch, an opponent three league above them. The Bears came out of the gates hot as offensive catalysts Matt Mattimore and Jonas Fischer found their form early. The Brook led 37-27 at halftime but, after the Warriors scored 20 in the 3rd quarter, clung to a three-point edge entering the decisive frame. Fischer scored 8 points, all on free throws, and Mattimore drilled a big 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, to seal a historic win for the blue and white. Mattimore and Fischer finished with 23 points apiece while Nkumu Mandungu was a colossal force inside, finishing just shy of a triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocks.

Boys’ Basketball vs. Wyandanch | Feb. 20, 1996

Robbie Marvin had nothing short of a legendary performance as he almost single-handedly led the Bears to victory. After the first quarter the score was Marvin 17, Wyandanch 11, and the point guard was only just getting started. He finished with a career high 39 points, connecting on six 3-pointers, including one from near half court, and hit almost every big shot to keep the Brook in the contest. With the game tied and only seconds remaining, Marvin missed a runner in the lane, but Paul Ciofrone (18 points) tipped in the ball at the buzzer to give the blue and white a thrilling win on the Warriors’ home floor.

Boys’ Basketball vs. Southold | Feb. 20, 2010

In the County Championships the Bears got their chance at revenge after two close losses to the Settlers during the regular season. On the day the students fled campus for spring break, the boys traveled to Longwood High School in the hopes of bringing back the second County title in boys’ basketball history. In a contest that had eight lead changes and six ties, neither team saw their lead swell to more than five points. With 20 seconds remaining and Southold clinging to a one-point lead, it appeared that they were going to somehow find a way to beat the Brook for a third time, and they very well may have, had two-time All-State point guard Tim Pandolfi not been wearing a blue jersey.

His latest in a career of heroic moments came with the season on the line. With time waning, Pandolfi coolly used a screen, stepped back five feet behind the 3-point arc and let go the biggest shot of his life to give the Bears a 47-45 lead, their first of the final frame.

The Bears got the stop they needed on the ensuing possession and Pandolfi was fouled, sending him to the free throw line where he connected on both to put the Bears up four. Despite the grim outlook, Southold cut the lead to an uncomfortable 49-48. Pandolfi was promptly fouled and connected on the first but missed the second to leave Southold one last in the form of a 60-foot heave for the win. The desperate hurl was on line just enough to make the heart of every Brooker stop for just a moment before the shot harmlessly careened off the backboard, sending the blue-clad warriors into a euphoric celebration around the fallen bodies of the disbelieving Settlers.

The undefeated Southold squad, ranked #4 in New York state, had to deal with the ignominy of finishing the regular season without blemish (18-0) but falling in the most important game of the year. It was Pandolfi’s moment, coming through with 27 points, including 12 of the Bears’ final 13, placing him in the pantheon of Stony Brook’s greatest postseason performers.

Boys’ Basketball vs. Greenport | Feb. 19, 2017

“They still have to take our crown.”

In the final words spoken before the Bears took the floor last night in the Suffolk Class C Championship, senior captain Brandon Providence perfectly summed up the moment: a youthful challenger was coming for the incumbent king.

Greenport came into the season with high expectations, and for good reason. A formidable front line, coupled with sensational guards who could drive, dish, and shoot, made the Porters an instant favorite to supplant the Bears as the champions of Class C. In the Suffolk Times’ season preview of the Porters, the players were already talking about booking rooms at the State Championship in anticipation of a deep postseason run. As the league season got underway, the Bears were all but forgotten in the rush to coronate the rising power that would slice through the league with a 9-1 record. When the Porters secured the League VIII Championship two weeks ago (thanks to the Bears’ victory over Bridgehampton with an injury-depleted roster) the Porters cut down the nets in their gym and spoke about that title being just one step toward winning the State Championship. The narrative was no longer about an upstart rising to face the Bears, who had dispatched Pierson in the last four Suffolk County Championships, but of a peaceful succession of power. The Porters’ victory was viewed as a foregone conclusion, spearheaded by the dynamic freshman Ahkee Anderson, the League VIII Rookie of the Year and MVP. The Bears? They merely had a few vestiges remaining from their dynastic past. The Porters had beaten them twice in the regular season, including a 27-point thumping on January 11th. It was time for the new blood to grab the torch. But in the rush to anoint a new victor, they forgot about the old standard-bearer.

The Bears would make them remember.

Powered by Emil Vaughn’s shackling of League VIII MVP Ahkee Anderson, the Bears turned in a defensive performance for the ages to stun the top-seeded Porters and claim yet another title.

The Bears jumped out to a 6-0 lead, held a 13-6 edge after one and a 20-12 advantage at the half. Their lead swelled to as many as 14 in the third quarter, but a Greenport spurt cut the lead to just seven with 5:13 left. It was at that moment that Jyles Etienne delivered the highlight of the season by crushing a two-handed slam on the head of Greenport’s big, while drawing the foul. The Porters would get no closer the rest of the way as the Bears pulled off the upset, 49-35.

Mac Bohuny, who always showed up in the biggest games, led all scorers with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Brandon Providence scored 15, hitting 8 crucial free throws and two huge layups in the final minutes. Etienne (8 points/20 rebounds/5 blocks), John Eshirow (6), and Harry Zhu (3) rounded out the scoring. But the MVP of the game did not score a single point. Vaughn’s defensive performance that night will go down in Stony Brook lore, limiting Anderson to just 9 points. His teammates honored him after the game by giving him the championship game ball for his efforts.

The defensive numbers from the game boggle the mind. The Bears held the Porters 37 points under their scoring average of 71.6. Greenport’s previous low score on the season was 49 and they eclipsed 80 on eight occasions with a high of 95. The Bears held Greenport’s top three scorers Anderson (19.4 ppg), Jordan Fonseca (11.2 ppg), and Julian Swann (11.1 ppg) to a combined 15 points, 26.7 points below their cumulative average. They held the Porters to zero 3-pointers, the only time all season they were held without a long ball. Greenport came into the game averaging 6.1 threes per game, hitting 10 on three occasions. “Defense wins championships” is one of sports’ biggest cliches, but it has certainly rang true for the Bears.

Girls’ Basketball vs. Pierson | Feb. 14, 2018

The Bears strode into Pierson’s gymnasium as the #3 seed, having lost to the Whalers by 24 points on that same floor just one week earlier. The Whalers had played in the last four County Championships, having won the title three straight times from 2015-17. A 5th straight trip to the title game look almost inevitable as Danielle Graves, a key scorer for the Bears, was lost midway through the second quarter with an ankle injury. When Beth Felix, the Bears’ most potent scorer, picked up her 4th foul in the second quarter, things looked bleak.

But this team, which showed resilience in the face of injuries and setbacks all season, once again was able to keep believing and disregard the odds stacked against them. The Bears trailed by a narrow 17-21 margin at the half, then saw the Whaler lead swell to as many as nine in the third quarter before they clawed back to within 25-29 entering the fourth quarter.

A three-point play gave the Whalers an 8-point edge with 6:30 left in the game. Back-to-back putbacks from Leka Lee-Maeba and Jessica Nwachukwu pulled the Bears back within two, but Pierson seized control with a 4-point spurt that gave them a 40-34 lead with under two minutes left. Coach Tim Stone called a timeout and the language on the sideline remained resilient: “There’s plenty of time.” We’ve got this.” “Keep fighting.”

Felix breathed life into the team and the hearty band of Stony Brook fans who made the east end trek with her third 3-pointer at the 1:31 mark. After a Pierson misfire, Felix drew a foul on the baseline and made the layup, but the basket was waved off. She instead drained both free throws to pull the Brook within a point with 1:10 remaining. After a missed jumper from Pierson’s Chastin Giles, the Bears had the ball with a chance to take their first lead since midway through the second quarter. Felix lined up a carbon copy of her last 3-pointer, but found only iron. The ball caromed to the far side where Scanlon, the newly minted League VII Rookie of the Year, corralled the board between two Whalers, then drove baseline and connected on a floater to thrust the Bears ahead with just 41 seconds remaining. Pierson missed a 3-pointer on their next possession and grabbed the offensive rebound, but Felix came up with a clutch steal and was fouled en route to the basket. She hit both free throws to push the Bear lead to 46-43 with 27 seconds left. Pierson drew a foul on their next possession and pulled within two after hitting the first free throw. The second fell short, but the Whalers again came up with the rebound. A game-tying shot hit the back of the rim, then a 3-pointer to take the lead rolled tantalizingly off the rim before the ball ricocheted out of bounds with 13.7 left.

Pierson ball.

Giles received the ball and drove baseline but ran into a defensive wall courtesy of Felix and Caroline Maglione. She was forced to throw up an off-balance heave from the hip that missed to the right where Lee-Maeba secured it. She passed it to Felix who drew a foul with 8.0 seconds remaining. Felix connected on her second of two free throws to put the Bears back up three, 47-44. Pierson came down and missed the game-tying 3-pointer which bounced out of bounds to the Bears with 1.4 seconds left. It was the Whalers’ seventh straight missed field goal to end the game. The Bears were able to inbound it without incident to seal the upset victory.

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Bear Paw Thumbnail

 

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