By Bill Landon
Colin Powell once said “success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence,” and the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team has used dedication and determination to attain another success this season. On Feb. 13, the Bulls outscored Centereach 59-29 on senior night in the last game of the regular season to remain perfect, at 14-0, in League III.
Smithtown West’s seniors started the game off strong, despite four not seeing much playing time this year. Will Kass started the three-point flurry with a shot that gave the Bulls an early 8-0 lead, but Centereach junior forward Chris Witherspoon drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a two-point game with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter. Centereach would come no closer.
Even with a different starting five, the Bulls found their rhythm early. Juniors Chris Crespo and Michael Gannon, and senior Gordon Shouler added shots from beyond the arc to help Smithtown West take a 34-13 advantage into halftime. In total, Smithtown West had eight 3-pointers from six different players.
“Our effort is what won this,” Crespo said. “Our seniors gave 100 percent effort and we executed all game. I’m really just in awe as to how we played together as a team tonight.”
Centereach senior Josue Chery opened the third quarter with a trey of his own, to bring the score to 34-16, but Smithtown West’s defensive pressure was more than the Cougars could handle. That pressure keyed in mainly on senior Jon Agostino, who is usually a double-digit scoring threat. Smithtown West held its coach’s nephew to just three points.
“I thought the defense was the best part of our game tonight,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said.
The Bulls continued to bank 3-pointer after 3-pointer, as senior Justin Durcan, Crespo and Gannon swished their shots to break the game open at the end of the third.
“I was just happy that all of our guys got to play,” Gannon said. “We have four seniors who don’t play as much and it was fun to watch them play well.”
Durcan finished atop the scoring sheet with 14 points. Crespo followed with 11 points, Gannon added nine and senior Chris VanderBrink tacked on seven.
“I think coming out hot and confident — even though we’re not the regular starters — that’s what made us so comfortable,” Durcan said. “It’s our preparation. We work hard every day in practice even if we don’t see much playing time, and I think we work harder in practice than any team in our league, and that helped us today.”
The loss eliminated Centereach from postseason play. The Cougars finished the season with a 9-11 overall mark and 6-8 record in league play.
The Bulls, who clinched the league title with their win over Copiague on Feb. 2, finished with the best boys’ basketball record in the county, at 19-1. Only one other team, Center Moriches, finished undefeated in conference play.
Heading into the postseason on a 15-game winning streak, Crespo said his team will maintain it’s winning attitude.
“Once we know who we’ll play,” he said, “the coaches are going to show us the personnel, what they run and what we have to do to defeat them.”
But Durcan said his team will remain composed as the No. 4 Bulls prepare to host No. 13 Lindenhurst Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.
“We’ve just got to stay poised and don’t expect to win, but the county championship is what we’re shooting for,” Durcan said. “Even though we’re up there [in the rankings], we’ve got to stay humble and hopefully our games will speak for themselves.”