By Bill Landon
The No. 1-seeded Harborfields boys’ basketball team led by 10 points before the No. 2 East Hampton Bonackers rallied back and, with a big 3-pointer, tied the game at 42-42 with a minute left in regulation at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus Friday night. Despite the scare, the Tornadoes were able to pull ahead for a close 45-42 victory, for the Suffolk County Class A title.
“I thought, ‘Why did I sign up for this job?’ because it’s getting me gray and bald, but I have a lot of confidence in my guys, because they’ve been in games like this before,” Harborfields head coach John Tampori said of the game being tied in the final minute. “We pushed up, we pressed to speed up the tempo of the game so we could get some easy shots, but these guys with their effort were amazing. Even when they couldn’t shoot the ball they still found a way to score enough points.”
Harborfields struggled to find the rim in the first period, but down by two points with time expiring, Harborfields junior forward Alex Merhige swished a buzzer-beating field goal to tie the game at 11-11.
Both teams traded points until deadlocked at 17-17, but by the time the teams made their way to the locker room, East Hampton pulled ahead 23-19.
The scoreboard remained frozen for most of the third quarter, as both teams struggled to find the net. Harborfields held its opponent to just three points, a trifecta by Kyle McKee, who would make his presence known in the final quarter.
Harborfields senior guard Robert Pecorelli sparked a rally late in the period, netting eight points to put his team out front 29-26.
In a miscue, East Hampton in-bounded the ball to a teammate who was standing out of bounds, which turned the ball over to the Tornadoes with just over four minutes remaining. With his team leading by one point, Harborfields senior guard Malcolm Wynter hit a big 3-pointer, his second of the night, to help his team edge ahead 37-33. Pecorelli followed with a trey of his own that pushed his team’s advantage to 40-36.
Wynter said he wasn’t surprised by East Hampton’s range and shooting prowess.
“We had them all scouted because it’s such a big game and we knew they had shooters, and shooters make shots, that’s what they do, but we can shoot, too,” he said.
East Hampton’s McKee struck with another trey to make it a one-point game, but Merhige answered with a field goal that helped his team stay out front 42-39 with just over a minute left. McKee, finding his rhythm outside, nailed his fourth triple of the game that tied it at 42-42,
“They hit that big shot, but we rallied together, tightened up on defense, got out on their shooters and had good possessions,” Harborfields senior guard Danny Morgan said.
Pecorelli said his teammates were able to keep their head in the game because they’ve been in pressure situations before.
“We’re all seniors and we stayed calm, we’ve been in that position before and we had a hard non-league schedule, especially when we played Elmont,” he said. “So we stayed relaxed ran the offense that our coach puts in and knew we’d be fine. Hard work pays off our defense played really well tonight.”
With the clock winding down to seven seconds, Harborfields senior guard Alex Bloom, off a feed from Wynter, swished a three-point shot for the lead that held up at the buzzer.
Harborfields advances to take on No. 1-ranked Southampton, the Class B champion, Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus, in the Small School championship game.
“We’ll scout them, and we’ll have a couple of good practices and then,” Morgan said, “we’ll do what we do.”