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Brennan Whelan

The Tigers’ tallest player was short on time, and it wasn’t enough to dig his team out of the hole that knocked them out of the playoffs.

The No. 3-seeded Half Hollow Hills West boys’ basketball team took advantage of No. 2 Northport’s early foul trouble, which left star senior center Lukas Jarrett benched for most of the first half with two personal fouls. By the time he returned to the Stony Brook University court for the second half of the Suffolk County Class AA semifinal matchup, the Tigers’ 31-20 deficit only continued to grow.

Northport had finished the season undefeated in League II, at 14-0, and only suffered one loss this season, a 70-48 defeat at Baldwin. The Tigers’ 72-47 loss on Sunday evening proved to be a similar-looking one, with the Colts coming up with big blocks and an array of 3-pointers to stifle Northport. The difference this time, though, was that the 6-foot, 7-inch Jarrett was not around to counter with many blocks of his own, and although the Tigers scored six 3-pointers, the Colts’ Matt Asenjo had six alone, followed by Kian Dalyrimple with five. The two combined for 41 points — almost as much as Northport’s entire team.

When Jarrett returned, he came through with a block to go along with a field goal and two free-throw points. Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea, who had been strong on offense the entire season, took over in Jarrett’s absence, scoring six points in each half for a team-high 12 points. Jarrett finished with nine points. Guards Brennan Whelan, a senior; Kevin Cryer-Hassett and Ryan Magnuson, both juniors; and Justin Carrano, a sophomore, tacked on five points apiece.

Northport was able to close the gap back to 11 points with O’Shea’s field goal at the 6:27 mark of the third, but by the end of those eight minutes the Tigers were down 49-30. Half Hollow Hills West led by as much as 30 points, after a trifecta put the team up 70-40 with 2:35 left in regulation, but O’Shea’s free-throw point, Cryer-Hassett’s 3-point play and junior guard Brett Vansteenbergen’s 3-pointer helped narrow that lead to give the game its final score.

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Sean O’Shea moves the basketball around the paint. Photo by Joe Galotti

By Joe Galotti

After suffering its first loss of the season on Saturday, the Northport boys’ basketball team wasted little time in getting back to its winning ways. On Tuesday night, the Tigers jumped out to an early 17-2 lead on visiting Lindenhurst, and never looked back, as they came away with a 55-41 victory.

The win improved the Tigers’ record to 15-1 on the year, and clinched a League II regular season championship for the program. While Northport’s players realize they have plenty of work ahead of them still this winter, the achievement was certainly not lost on the club.

Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti
Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti

“This is a really great accomplishment for us, because we play in probably the best league on Long Island,” Northport senior guard Brennan Whelan said.

Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“This is huge for us,” O’Shea said. “It’s great knowing that we’ll have a banner up on the wall, and that it will hang there forever.”

O’Shea finished with a game-high 15 points in his team’s win over the Bulldogs, while Whelan dished out 10 assists. The club also got nine points apiece from junior guard Kevin Cryer-Hassett and senior guard Rory Schynder.

In total, 11 different players scored for the Tigers in the contest. Ball movement has been a key for Northport all season long, and on Tuesday the team’s passing and court vision was once again on point.

“We’re an unselfish team by nature, and we also work a lot on passing,” Northport’s head coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “Our guys really do understand that if they move the ball, they get an open shot, and they enjoy playing that way.”

Northport’s veteran group seems to have fully bought into this philosophy.

“We’ve all been playing with each other for a couple of years now, and we always look to make the extra pass, because that’s what makes our offense work so well,” Whelan said.

The Tigers also put together a strong night on their own end of the court, giving up just four points in the opening quarter and 12 points in the first half. This allowed Northport to take a commanding 22-point advantage into halftime, and give rest to its starters down the stretch.

Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti
Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti

Senior forward Lukas Jarrett was a major catalyst on the defensive end, registering five blocks on the night.

“Our defense started everything tonight,” D’Eloia said. “We just really committed to helping each other, and trying to stay in front of them. We made them take tough shots, and that helped generate our offense early on.”

Lindenhurst outscored the Tigers 29-21 in the game’s final 16 minutes, but was never able to draw within single-digits again. Manny Oyakhilome led the Bulldogs with 14 points in a losing effort.

With a league title now in hand, Northport looks to have a strong finish to what has been a memorable regular season campaign to this point.

“We definitely want to go undefeated [in league play],” O’Shea said. “But we also know that we have to take it one game at a time.”

The Tigers, now 10-0 in League II, will next travel to face off against Walt Whitman on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. The Wildcats have struggled of late, but D’Eloia is not overlooking the league rival.

“They’re a very well coached and disciplined team, and they would like nothing more than to knock us off,” D’Eloia said. “So we’re going to prepare for that game the same way we’ve prepared for all the other games.”

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Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport opened its season with a win over Connetquot on their home court Tuesday, defeating the Thunderbirds 62-51 in League II boys’ basketball action.

Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

Connetquot broke out to an early 8-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, which shrunk to a three-point lead with just under two minutes left. The Tigers rallied and took their first lead of the game, edging ahead 11-10 in the last minute of the quarter, but Connetquot, on their final possession, let the clock wind down to two seconds, and hit a jumper at the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the second.

But it would be the last time the Thunderbirds would lead in the contest.

After a sluggish first quarter, Northport senior Lukas Jarrett found his rhythm and the rim, as he helped the Tigers surge ahead 19-12 with just over five minutes left in the half.

Connetquot controlled the inside game early, as they were strong down low and Northport struggled to handle the pressure.

The Tigers opened the second half clinging to an eight-point lead that shrank to five with just under four minutes left in the third. Northport senior Joe Stockman swished a three-pointer from the corner to give his team a six-point advantage, and the Tigers took a 42-36 lead at the 2:28 mark of the third.

Connetquot clawed its way back to open the final quarter trailing just 45-41, but Jarrett rocked the room with a three-pointer to aid the Tigers. Again the Thunderbirds muscled their way to the rim to cut the deficit, 48-43.

Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport head coach Andrew D’Eloia said that Connetquot is a tough, resilient team, adding that the matchups between the two teams are always competitive.

“We knew what to expect and we had to be ready and play all 32 minutes, and we did that,” D’Eloia said. “I thought Brennan Whelan, Sean [O’Shea], Lukas [Jarrett], Rory [Schynder], and Joe Stockman really stepped it up, so it was a real team victory.”

O’Shea, a senior, made his presence known with a long three-pointer from the corner to break out to a 51-45 advantage with just under four minutes left in regulation.

“We knew that they’re a team that likes to pound it inside and they have good shooters, so we prepared for that,” O’Shea said. “I like how we finished at the end. It was a close game. We didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment.”

Jarrett struck again from long distance, as the senior drained his second trey of the game, to put his team out front by 11 with just over three minutes left.

Play was stopped for an injury timeout as Jarrett took an elbow to the nose. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward, with cotton stuffed up his nostrils, sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a physical team,” Jarrett said. “They were good at getting to the loose balls, so we had to match their intensity. Our bench is deep — it’s always been that way, so it’s awesome that when someone gets hurt, our bench can always pick us up.”

In the foul-plagued final minutes, both teams traded points at the free-throw line. Whelan nailed two, and the senior put his team ahead, 60-46.

“We knew they were going to be tough inside and they’re tough players,” Whelan said. “We let them get too many points inside, but we started to play well on defense and we pulled it out there at the end.”

Trailing by 14 points with time running out, Connetquot was forced to foul to arrest the clock, but learned that that was a losing battle with Northport at the charity stripe.

Whelan led his team in scoring with 18 points; Jarrett was close behind with 17 and O’Shea finished with 13.

The Tigers will try to carry the winning momentum into Friday’s road contest at Half Hollow Hills East. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.