Kris Cheslock wasn’t happy with the way he was practicing last Thursday night and walked into the locker room feeling defeated, as head coach Keith Buehler followed behind for a pep talk. The next time they went into the locker room together, Friday night, they were celebrating a huge win.
“We have a terrific relationship,” the Port Jefferson head boys’ basketball coach said of he and his junior forward. “We had a nice man-to-man talk, so for him to have the game he had tonight after what he was battling last night, it touches my heart. I love these kids and I’m just so happy for him.”
Cheslock scored a game-high 34 points and knocked in a layup with 21 seconds left to break a tie, giving the Royals a home court win over Greenport, 60-58.
“It’s a great uplift,” Cheslock said of his game and the team’s win. “I was feeling down last night and this was a great way to come back up.”
He scored 12 of the team’s 19 first-quarter points — adding stats in each category with two three-pointers, two layups and two free-throw points — but the team fell behind 24-19. Both teams were slow to get on the board in the second, but the Royals were able to narrow the gap to 34-31 by halftime.
“It was a tough one and a pivotal game to start the season,” Port Jefferson senior forward Michael Spyrou said. “We’re already 0-1 so it was good to get a win here at home.”
The third stanza proved to be much like the first, with Cheslock scoring eight points, but Greenport maintained its three-point lead, 46-43, by the end of the next eight minutes.
The fourth quarter was when the game caught fire.
With 6:09 left to play, Greenport jumped out to a 52-44 lead.
Spyrou missed a 1-and-1 attempt, but sank the rebound for two points and stole a pass that lead to a Cheslock field goal. Seconds later Cheslock added another to make it a two-point game, 52-50. With 3:27 left to play, he intercepted a pass and nailed a long field goal to tie the game, and the crowd erupted. It didn’t last for long, though, as Greenport scored four points off two free throws and a layup, to maintain a 56-52 edge.
Cheslock swished a field goal to make it 56-54 and Greenport tacked on another two free throws, but Spyrou grabbed a rebound for the score and was fouled, swishing his extra point to make it a one-point game, 58-57.
“Me and my teammate Cheslock got the ball to each other and were able to score,” said Spyrou, who was next in line behind his comrade with 18 points and eight rebounds. “Our teammates were getting us the ball, we were getting the looks we wanted and that’s what we go over in practice and we hope to see out on the court.”
Cheslock finally got what he had been pushing for when, with 21.4 seconds remaining, he nailed another field goal — this time to give his team the lead, 59-58, and ultimately the win. Again the gym shook with excitement.
“It was a rush,” Cheslock said. “It’s electric — everyone is rooting for you in the crowd and it feels great.”
The team and the fans were matching each other’s excitement during the last few minutes of the game.
“I kept telling my teammates not to give up, that we got this, we’re going to win, we’re going to pull through,” he said. “And we did.”
Greenport was fouled with 9.7 seconds left on the clock, but missed both opportunities to tie or grab the lead. With 7.6 seconds left to play, Spyrou tacked on the final point of the game off a free throw.
“I’m very impressed because we’re a young team,“ Buehler said. “They’ve never really been in a game like that, so I was a little scared. … [But] they were resilient, they stuck around, they stayed calm and they won the game.”