By Bill Landon
The Tornadoes are already beginning to blow through the bracket.
The eyes of the storm, seniors Alex Merhige and Kyle Stolba, racked up 29 points each as the No. 1-seeded Harborfields boys’ basketball team, which totaled a lucky 13 3-pointers in the win, knocked out No. 8 Mount Sinai, 86-53, in the Class A quarterfinals Feb. 17.
Fresh off a thrilling overtime win the night before, a 70-63 win over No. 9 Comsewogue, the Mustangs’ season comes to an abrupt end.
From opening tipoff, the game was never in question. The Tornadoes flexed their muscles, racking up point after point — draining six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.
Merhige, who finished the game with 12 rebounds and five blocks, wowed the crowd with his second dunk of the game in the second stanza. Stolba, who had a triple double with 10 assists and 10 rebounds, hit his fourth trey of the game, and the Tornadoes took a 30-point lead into the halftime break, 56-26.
“They’re always good competitors — they work hard even when they got down in the first quarter they never gave up on us,” Stolba said of Mount Sinai. “The coach had to wake us up a little in the second just to keep going, we caught fire and I think we showed why we’re the No. 1 seed.”
Stolba started the scoring for the second half with a pair of field goals, senior Joe Kelly hit a 3-pointer and Merhige drained his fourth trey for a 73-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.
“We played great — we moved the ball really well, our defense in the first half was unbelievable,” Merhige said. “We only missed like two three’s in the first half, but our next game definitely won’t be so easy.”
Harborfields head coach John Tampori pulled his starters and the bench took the team to the finish line.
Senior David Maitre answered the call with a field goal and a shot from beyond the arc to help put the win in the record book.
Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said he was proud to see his boys make it as far as they did.
“Some people counted us out when we were 3-6 in the league, but then we won five out of six before this game,” he said. “We knew they were an excellent team and they shot the ball much better than we saw watching tape, but I’m very proud of our guys in how we finished the season.”
Senior Harrison Bak led Mount Sinai with 13 points, and classmate Nick Rose followed close behind with 11.
Senior Shane Wagner made a pair of field goals and three triples to place him second in scoring behind Stolba and Merhige with 13 points.
Harborfields head coach John Tampori said he liked what he saw from his team, and hopes that the boys can keep up the good work.
“Mount Sinai is well coached and they’re a scrappy team that put forth a great effort,” he said. “We’re not that much better than they are, it’s just that tonight was our night. They had a tough overtime win last night and to come here the next day and played us hard and that’s a credit to them.”
Harborfields will play No. 5 Wyandanch at home Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. Wagner said if his team plays like it did against Mount Sinai, they’ll be ready.
“They came out hot, but we came out hotter,” Wagner said of Mount Sinai. “We were hitting shots. I don’t think we missed a shot in the first quarter, maybe a 3-pointer. For the next round, we are definitely mentally ready, and we’re physically ready.”