That’s how long it had been seen the boys’ basketball team last took the court before Wednesday, ending the longest stretch between games in school history. It had been 373 days since Swanson’s friendly confines last played host to a game and the familiarity of it all provided a joyful lift for the community. Of course, odd sights abounded due to COVID-19 protocols. The 400-person capacity stands were limited to just 40 spectators. Team chairs were separated by six feet and wrapped around both baselines. Both teams wore masks throughout the game and extra breaks were added at the midpoint of every quarter to allow players to catch their breath and get water. But the modifications were all worth it to bring life back to Swanson and allow our boys to play again.
For their season opener, the Bears faced off against Long Island Lutheran in the first match-up between the programs. Though the game was technically a scrimmage, the energy both teams brought belied the fact that it would not appear on either school’s record.
The Crusaders opened the scoring with a 3-pointer on their first possession and followed with a layup. After Lee-Anthony Santiago got the Bears on the board with a free throw, LuHi added another layup to build what would prove to be their largest lead of the game at 1-7. A CJ Edwards layup and a Lance Piper 3-pointer sandwiched a Crusader jumper to bring the Bears to within 6-9. A LuHi layup pushed their lead back to 11-6 before Nate Small closed the quarter with a pair of layups. In between, the Bears ratcheted up the defense with an Edwards block and a great hustle play from Small and Malik Ulysse, who collectively knocked the ball away from LuHi’s point guard and hit the deck to pursue the possession. The Brook never led in the quarter but trailed only 10-12 heading into the second.
In the second frame, Lance Piper connected on his second of three 3-pointers to give the Bears a lead they would not relinquish. Anthony Zajac followed with a 3-pointer just seconds after checking into his first varsity game to build an 18-12 lead. A jumper pulled the Crusaders back within 18-21, but the Bears responded with a Small layup and a pair of Edwards free throws to build their largest lead at 25-18. LuHi closed the quarter with a layup to trail 20-26 at the half.
In the third period, the Bears took control. After LuHi opened the frame with a 3-pointer, the Bears used an 11-1 spurt to build their first double-digit lead. Edwards started the run with a tough layup after which Small stole the ball and took it all the way in for a layup. A Colin Scanlon 3-pointer and Small layup bookended a LuHi free throw before Edwards capped the run with a coast-to-coast layup following a defensive rebound. LuHi responded with a 3-pointer to trail 27-37, but Edwards followed with a Euro step layup and a fastbreak dunk to give the Bears their biggest edge at 41-27 and bring the limited Swanson crowd to its feet. After both sides traded layups, Santiago picked the pocket of LuHi’s point guard and finished the layup to put the Brook up 46-33. LuHi closed the quarter with a layup to trail by 11 heading into the fourth.
LuHi opened the final period with a layup and 3-pointer to close within six points, but while LuHi’s bench was still cheering, Piper drilled his third 3-pointer for one of the biggest shots of the game. LuHi responded with another three, to pull back within 6, but a 9-0 run from the Bears, punctuated by consecutive steals from Logan Charboneau and Small led to Edwards layups, ensuring the Crusaders would not threaten the rest of the way in a 63-56 win.
Edwards led the Bears with 17 points, followed closely by Small with 16. Piper (10), Scanlon (8), Santiago (4), Zajac (3), Ulysse (3), and Charboneau (1) rounded out the scoring for the Brook.
The Bears are back in action Monday afternoon in a scrimmage vs. Lawrence Woodmere Academy.