By Bill Landon
Defense was the difference-maker in a game of crosstown rivals Jan. 3.
Smithtown West held host Smithtown East to just 17 points through the first 16 minutes of play, and outscored the Bulls 31-14 in the second half to nab a 56-31 League II win.
“We always play hard — we’ve held our opponents to the least points in the county per game for the last two years,” said Smithtown West point guard Chris Crespo. “We play defense, and that’s how we win games.”
Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon sparked the offense midway through the third quarter, draining his third 3-pointer of the game to put his team out front 32-18. Smithtown East struggled to contain the big man in the paint, where Crespo would consistently feed the 6-foot, 6-inch power forward, who battled his way to the rim time and time again.
“In this league you can’t sleep on any team though,” Gannon said despite his effort. “Anyone has a good shot at winning no matter who you play.”
The Crespo-Gannon combination was too much for East to contain, and Gannon banked 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes. Crespo finished with 11 points.
Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino wasn’t surprised at some points of the contest, saying he’s come to expect great things from Crespo and Gannon.
“Our point guard Chris [Crespo] is pretty good at getting the ball to the open player,” Agostino said. “He can find people, and he found Michael today and he was making shots.”
He said he thought the end results wasn’t indicative though of what his team is really made of.
“They’re very good, and they make you uncomfortable defensively — they throw you out of rhythm,” Agostino said. “We haven’t practiced for two days, and mentally you’re not out of rhythm, but physically you are, because you have to shoot every day.”
Crespo still thought his challengers fought hard, saying he wasn’t surprised by the Bulls’ caliber of play, as both teams grew up together and know each other well.
“We know a lot of these guys, so you know what you’re getting, but when we play North Babylon or Copiague, it’s coach Agostino and coach [John] Tampori who do a fantastic job of prepping us before the game,” Crespo said. “[At]practice, they show us what to expect.”
Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling said his team’s performance was not what he’d hoped it’d be for this point in the season. Atop the scoring chart was James Peters with nine points and John Cawley with six.
“We don’t ever expect to get out-worked, and we were severely out-worked by the other team tonight,” he said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re usually a hard-working, blue collar type of team, so it was disappointing to see that they worked so much harder than we did.”
Smithtown East will look to redeem the loss when the Bulls hit the road to face Huntington Jan. 5 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown West is scheduled to be back in action on its home court today, Jan. 4. A 4 p.m. tip-off time is scheduled.
“We play North Babylon on Thursday, so we have one day to prepare,” Gannon said. “We’ll practice hard and go out and play hard.”