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Boys Basketball

All photos by Steven Zaitz

Sometimes the third time is not the charm.

The Commack boys basketball team, bidding for its first Suffolk County AA Championship in school history, lost to the Brentwood Indians on Saturday night, 68-46. The game was played in front of about 1,500 fans at Stony Brook University’s Island Federal Arena.

Despite having beaten Brentwood twice in the regular season, Commack could not close the deal and found themselves down by 10 points just five minutes into the game. They never fully recovered.

The Indians clogged up passing lanes and caused myriad turnovers that led to easy baskets, as sophomore guard Jeremiah Webb and junior forward Marquese Dennis led Brentwood with 14 points each. Junior guard Tyrell Davender had 13.

Commack, who came into the final game having beaten top-seeded Smithtown West in the semifinals, cut the lead from 12 to 6 in the final two minutes of the first half. But they could not seize upon that momentum coming out of the tunnel to start the third period.

The Cougars mustered only a single point in the first five minutes of the second half until Cougar guard Mike Gitz hit a three-pointer from the wing. But during this stretch, Brentwood had built a 38-22 lead. And when 5-foot-10 guard Josh Ramos from Brentwood rattled in a long ball from the right corner with four and a half left in the game, the Commack stands began to empty. The score was 51-29 in favor of the Indians.

Gitz led the Cougars with 16 but most of those came when the game was out of reach for Commack. Star guard Nick Waga was held to two field goals and just six points on the evening.

It was the fourth Suffolk AA crown for head coach Anthony Jimenez and Brentwood since 2014. Usually a highly seeded team, the seventh-ranked Indians had to knock off No. 2 Bayshore and No. 3 Bellport to reach the final. They finished with an overall record of 17-7. Commack finishes at 20-4.

Pictured clockwise from above, Cougars’ Nick Waga drives to hole but is called for an offensive foul; Commack’s Mike Gitz; and Cougars’ Chris McHugh (34) goes in for a contested layup as Freddy Diogene defends.

The Commack Cougars boys basketball team continued their march to the Suffolk County AA championship by beating the top-seeded Smithtown West Bulls in the semi-final round on Tuesday night at neutral site Longwood High School. The final score was 48-43.

Commack senior center Ethan Meisel led the Cougars with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and he tied the score with a layup with two minutes left in the game after Smithtown West had been up by as many as 10.

But Commack, the fourth seed, outscored West 22-7 over the final 13 minutes of the game, and key free throws down the stretch by senior guard Mike Gitz after a gigantic offensive rebound by senior power forward Chris McHugh, with 10 seconds remaining in the game, sealed the win for Commack. Junior guard Nick Waga, who appeared to be seriously injured with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, reentered the game to help close out the contest. Waga scored 10 points and handled the crunch-time pressure that West applied in their desperate attempts to create late-game turnovers.

The Bulls were again without superstar center Patrick Burke who dislocated his knee against Northport earlier this month and this gave Meisel, McHugh and forward Matt Rosenoff to freely operate in and around both their offensive and defensive baskets.

West senior guard Jack Melore scored 15 for the Bulls but missed on all four of his three-point shots in the second half. Brothers Lorenzo and Ben Rappa combined for 20 points in the losing effort.

Commack will attempt to win the county crown in the program’s history when they take on seventh-seeded Brentwood, who knocked off third-seeded Bellport, 63-59, earlier in the day. The AA Championship game will be held at Stony Brook University’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. The winner will take on the Small School Champion, who is yet to be determined.

The Pierson Whalers seemed to have the measure of Port Jefferson in the Suffolk County Class C championship round, yet the Royals made some defensive takeaways late in the third quarter, closing the gap to just one point.

Conor Daily’s long-distance shooting kept the Royals in the game, and the junior scored a team high of 23 points, which included seven three-pointers. Teammate Luke Dickhuth drove the lane all game, battling down low for 15 points. Jack Keegan also banked 10, but Pierson was able to weather the late-game surge and hold on for the 58-52 victory at St. Joseph’s Danzi Athletic Center on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Andrew Miller scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Northport Tigers boys basketball team defeated the Centereach Cougars 58-45 on Tuesday night in their opening round Suffolk County playoff game.

The Tigers played a stifling brand of defense and had too much size for the visiting Cougars, who were limited to six points in the second quarter and nine points in the third. Northport dominated the glass, outrebounding Centereach 44-29 for the game.

The Cougars had no answer for Miller, and they tried to guard him with a rotation of different players, each having little luck against the 6’4” bruising senior. Miller dominated the painted area, slicing and dicing his way to easy layups. Northport senior guard Brendan Carr had 14 points, including six big ones in the fourth quarter. 

The Tigers enjoyed a double-digit lead for most of the game, but when Cougar guard Christopher Buzaid hit a three pointer midway through the fourth quarter, Centereach cut the Northport lead to eight. It would be the closest the Cougars would get — as baskets by Miller, Carr and sophomore Owen Boylan gave the Tigers a 54-37 lead with two minutes to go in the contest.

Senior guard Evan Grant led Centereach with 11 points and Buzaid had 10.

In a Battle of the Ports, Northport will battle the Bellport Clippers on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Suffolk County quarterfinal round at Bellport. 

The Cougar season ends with a mark of 13-8 overall and 10-6 in league play.

The Hauppauge Eagles peppered the scoreboard in the opening round of the Suffolk A championship round in a road game against Comsewogue, nailing five three-pointers before the Warriors could answer. Comsewogue limped into the second half trailing by 17 points — a deficit from which they could not recover. Hauppauge cruised to victory to win the post season opener, 71-53, Feb. 13.  

Sophomore Cole Wood was the spark for the Eagles offense, draining five three-pointers, five field goals and four from the charity stripe for 29 points. Mark Petre, a senior, followed with 20 points. and Matt Neglia netted eight. 

Comsewogue senior Hayden Morris-Gray topped the scoring chart for the Warriors with 21 points. Teammates Colin Strohm banked 13, and Austin Nesbitt and Chris Beverly netted eight points apiece. 

Comsewogue concludes their 22-23 campaign with a 12-4 league record, 15-6 overall. 

The Eagles (No. 11 seed) live to fight another day where they play another road game against Mount Sinai (No. 3 seed) Feb. 16. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. 

The Ward Melville Patriots looked for a much-needed win against Centereach in a League II matchup at home, but the Cougars were able to keep the Patriots at bay, snatching a 57-53 victory Friday, Jan. 27.

Ward Melville, trailing by nine points to open the second half, were able to trim the deficit by one point late in the game, but the Cougar defense was able to thwart the threat. 

Senior Derek Zhang topped the scoring charts for the Cougars with 14 points, and senior Christopher Buzaid netted 13. 

Lorenzo Beaton scored 17 points for the Patriots, and Devin Lynch banked 13. 

The win lifts the Cougars to 8-5 in the division, securing a playoff berth. The loss drops the Patriots to 5-7 with four games remaining before postseason play begins. 

The Cougars retake the court Feb. 4 with a road game against crosstown rival Newfield at 11:15 a.m. Ward Melville will take on Longwood during a road game on Jan. 31 at 5 p.m.

The Bulls of Smithtown East (7-4) needed a win to secure a postseason appearance when they hosted Centereach (7-4) but they fell behind by seven points at the halftime break.

Smithtown East senior Benjiman Haug, however, provided the necessary spark in the third quarter, putting his team out front. The Bulls never looked back, winning the contest, 58-48, in this Division II matchup Monday, Jan. 23. 

Haug finished with 22 points, and teammates James Burton and Dominic Galati netted 12 and 11, respectively.  

Centereach senior Tim McCarthy topped the scoring chart for the Cougars with 10 field goals, a three-pointer and four free throws for 27 points. 

The win lifts Smithtown East to 8-4 in league, 11-4 overall. The loss drops the Cougars to 7-5 with four games remaining before postseason play begins. 

The mighty have officially fallen.

The Commack Boys Basketball team did something nobody had been able to do so far this season – beat the Bulls of Smithtown High School West.

Led by senior guard Mike Gitz, the Cougars dominated the 4th quarter outscoring the Bulls 24-15, in what had been a tight game through three. The final was 68-57. 

Gitz had 12 points in that final period, and it was the second time in two games that Commack dominated a 4th quarter to prevail against a quality league opponent. The Cougars beat the Northport Tigers 62-55 last Saturday in what was also a tight game until late.

With the win, Commack pulls into a tie for first place with Smithtown West, widely regarded as one of the top teams on Long Island, both with records of 10-1 in Conference I play. After dropping their opener to Bay Shore six weeks ago, the Cats have now won 10 in a row.

“The kids really executed the game plan tonight and hit some big shots,” said Commack Head Coach Peter Smith. “This was the first of four road games for us in what will be a tough stretch and I’m glad we started it with a huge win.”

Huge was the theme of the night, and herculean the task of containing Smithtown West Center Patrick Burke, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Burke averages 20 points a game. Commack played a defense by committee against Burke with Cougar power forward Ethan Meisel in the role of committee chair.

“I went out there expecting a battle,” Meisel said. “I just kept focusing on keeping him (Burke) out of the paint. I watched a lot of film leading up to this game to learn what moves he would be looking to make and that helped me in stopping him.”

Burke had 19 points but only three in the 4th quarter.

“Ethan did a great job on Patrick,” Smith said. “But I think we played great help defense tonight, bringing over an off guard to try and keep him bottled up.”

Also bottled up, at least in the 1st half, was Cougar junior guard Nick Waga. Not because of great defense by the Bulls, but because he picked up two early fouls and Smith decided to let him sit. 

 But the fiery Waga started the 2nd half with a bang. With West leading 26-23, he came off a backdoor curl to hit a corner three and tie the game just 10 seconds into the 3rd quarter. That hoop was his first points of the game.  

Waga would finish with 12 points in the quarter, the last three of which coming on a buzzer-beating three pointer to give Commack a 44-42 lead heading into the deciding fourth. He started and ended the period the same way — with long range bombs.

“I had fresh legs and wanted to bring a bunch of energy,” said the 6 foot, 1 inch tall Waga, whose black and blonde wavy coif make him easy to spot on the court. “My teammates motivated me not to put my head down when I was sitting in the first half and we all kept pushing each other to get this win.”

As it was Waga who had fresh legs in the third, it was Gitz who caught fire in the fourth. He hit a runner in the lane to start the period and on the next possession faked out his defender Lorenzo Rappa so badly that Rappa flew in the opposite direction and was absorbed by pick-setting Cougar Chris McHugh, as Gitz casually hit a wide-open three. 

It gave the Cougars a seven-point lead and this move, that drew “oohs” and “aahs” from both Cougar and Bull fans alike, might have been the death blow to Smithtown West’s dreams of an undefeated season. With six and a half minutes remaining, the Bulls called a timeout as the buzz of the crowd was still loud enough to drown out West’s pep band. 

“I work on that move a lot,” said Gitz, who led all scorers with 21. “I try to use jabs and pump fakes to get the defenders off balance. It was great to hear the crowd after making that play and both the basket and the crowd was a big swing of momentum for us.”

The momentum would stay with Commack, as West would never recover. The Cougar lead ballooned to 14 with three minutes remaining in the game when Gitz drove past Rappa in the lane for a layup.

The rest of the game rendered a formality, Commack gladly went to the free throw line to seal it, and for the second straight game, they closed out a quality conference foe and arch enemy.

“We stay true to our game plan and execute down the stretch,” said Gitz on his team’s ability finish off opponents. “Plus, I think we want it more.”

Now the Cougars truly have what they wanted – a victory over the number one ranked team in Suffolk County and first place in the league with six games to go. Is he thinking about meeting the Bulls in playoffs next month?

“We are going to enjoy this win tonight and focus on West Islip on Thursday,” Smith said. “The ship keeps on going forward and you hope for the best.”

On this night, Smith and his Cougars not only beat the best, but now find themselves in a position to merit consideration as the best.

It was a battle between two talented scorers Wednesday, Jan. 18, when the Mount Sinai Mustangs came knocking on Comsewogue’s door for a League IV divisional matchup.

Mount Sinai’s Drew Feinstein went head-to-head with Comsewogue’s Hayden Morris-Gray. Feinstein, averaging 26.9 points per game, led the Mustangs with 32 points, lifting his team to a 71-58 road victory. 

Dominic Pennzello followed Feinstein with 19 points for the Mustangs, and Derrek Shechter notched another eight.

Morris-Gray topped the scoring chart for the Warriors with 25 points, hitting five triples and five field goals on the day. Teammates Colin Strohm netted 16, and Austin Nesbitt banked 10.

The win lifts Mount Sinai to 7-1, clinching a postseason playoff berth. The loss drops Comsewogue to 7-2, with six games remaining in regular season play.

— Photos by Bill Landon

The first three quarters of the Northport Tiger Boys basketball game, Commack had three completely distinct personalities.

The first quarter was essentially a standoff, as the Cougars won it by two. Commack dominated the second quarter, winning it by nine to take a commanding 32-21 lead into halftime. 

But Northport made a huge third quarter charge, outscoring Commack 23-11 to take a skinny one-point lead into the fourth quarter. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the final quarter was all too similar to the second, as Commack — propelled by a strong finish that was led by junior guard Nick Waga — improves to 9-1 in the conference by beating Northport 62-55. They have won nine straight conference games and move into second place behind the undefeated Smithtown West Bulls.

Northport drops to 7-3 in the conference which is good for fourth place in League I. Coupled with last Thursday’s loss to Bay Shore, it was the first time the Tigers have lost back-to-back league games since February of 2019. 

Waga led the Cougars 28 points including a huge three pointer with two and half minutes remaining in the game which broke a 52-52 tie. Senior guard Chris McHugh had 14 points and was two rebounds short of a double-double. 

Senior swingman Brendan Carr led the Tigers with 22 points, hitting four shots from long range. Junior forward Owen Boylan had all 12 of his points on three pointers. 

The Tigers had a non-league game on Sunday against Nassau County’s Sewanhaka, which they won 42-38 and resumed their league schedule against Lindenhurst on Tuesday, Jan 17, and won, 70-25.