By Steven Zaitz
In a dominating performance by their frontcourt, the Northport boys basketball team beat Brentwood in the first round of the Suffolk County, Class AAA playoffs Friday, Feb. 23.
Forward Will Meyer had a career-high 24 points to lead the sixth-seeded Tigers, who knocked off the third-seeded and defending county and Long Island champion Indians, 79-68. Forward Brendan Fenlon had 18 points, including four three-pointers, and Owen Boylan added 15.
Slashing and dashing point guard Jojo Cipollino had 20 points and scored most of his points by aggressively attacking the rim. Northport built a 20-10 lead after a fast-paced first quarter as Cipollino and Meyer each had six in the first eight minutes.
But Brentwood exploded for 23 in the second quarter as Indian swingman Marquese Dennis poured in nine, including a three-pointer. His teammate, 6’6” power forward had 16 points in the first half and the two teams went to the locker room with Northport ahead 37-33.
The Tigers came into the game averaging 56 points of offense a game but seemed to enjoy the electrifying pace and were able to negotiate Brentwood’s attempts at trapping them in the backcourt. Using quick passes to break the press or long baseball-like passes to go over it, Northport was able to get inside for high-percentage shots in the paint or divert to Plan B and make an extra pass for three-point attempts by Fenlon or Boylan — who hit on seven smart bombs in total.
As is the case with so many high school basketball games, this one was decided in the third period. With three minutes to go in the quarter three and Northport up by five, Fenlon hoisted up a long ball right in front of the Tiger bench. The ball went halfway down, popped out of the basket, and then straight down and in. It gave the Tigers a 51-43 advantage. Meyer hit a layup and was fouled with less than a minute to go in the quarter and the Northport lead ballooned to 58-46. Meyer had 10 points in the third.
The Brentwood gym has been kind to Northport in recent years as the Tigers boast a 14-7 record. In their last playoff appearance here in 2021, they beat the heavily-favored Indians 58-56 to win the Suffolk County championship. This year, they completed just the first step to a title. They played William Floyd on Wednesday, Feb. 28, for a chance at the finals for the third time in four years — results unavailable at time of print. For Brentwood, the loss means they will not have their 11th Suffolk County title in school history or fifth in the last decade.
— Photos by Steven Zaitz