By Bill Landon
Kings Park’s boys’ basketball team nearly doubled Huntington’s second-half score to remain atop the League IV leaderboard with a 69-49 come-from-behind win Dec.30.
The Kingsmen jumped out to an 8-1 lead before the Blue Devils rattled off 15 unanswered points for a 16-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Senior Kevin Lawrence netted nine of those points on four baskets and a free throw.
Kings Park clawed back to trail by five with just under four minutes left, a one-point lead minutes after, and senior guard Paul Cooper helped his team take the lead, 23-22, by banking four of six free-throw attempts on fouls.
“In that first half we weren’t communicating, and then guys started to talk and make each other accountable,” Cooper said. “So we got on track, and played good defense and that leads to open shots.”
The teams traded scores, and Huntington junior guard Mekhi Harvey let the clock unwind before scoring a field goal, to give the Blue Devils a 26-25 edge heading into the locker room.
Kings Park opened the second half with a different defensive look. The Kingsmen swarmed with a full-court press as Huntington turned the ball over and paid the price each time. Harvey said he wasn’t surprised.
“We don’t take any team lightly’ and their defense was pretty rough going into the second half,” he said.
Kings Park head coach Christopher Rubé said he told his team they might get outplayed, but told the
Kingsmen to make sure they didn’t get out worked. They took it to heart.
“We increased the intensity in the second half,” Rubé said. “We’re 6-1 but I told them ‘you have to earn it every night,’ and I think they got that message.”
Kings Park senior Jeff Li hit a big three-pointer for his first points of the game to put his team back in front, 28-26, and next was senior Richie Price, who scored his third trey of the game. Junior guard Jason Hartglass followed with his third of the game,as the Kingsmen jumped out to a 45-31 lead, and Price struck again from three-point land to put his team out front 48-31.
“When you’re in the zone you’re not thinking about your shot, you’re just letting the game come to you,” Price said. “So when the ball comes to me, I’m not thinking about it, I’m just shooting.”
Kings Park sophomore Andrew Bianco opened the scoring for the final quarter with a three-point play for a 53-35 lead. And Price followed swishing his fifth three-pointer.
Price was splitting time with Liam Thompson before an injury against East Islip the game prior sidelined Thompson. Rubé said he was proud of Price, and happy for his showing. He led the team with 17 points.
“He played great defensively, he had great energy, played hard on our press, and that spilled over to his offensive game,” he said. “He did a great job.”
Hartglass, who scored 15 points, let one fly from the left corner while getting knocked to the court by a defender, and saw his shot make it while sitting on the floor. Matter-of-factly, he made it a four-point play from the free-throw line.
“We definitely tightened up especially with communication,” Price said. “Not only did we play harder in the second half, we played smarter.”
Huntington had no answer.
“I would say we got more confident as a team,” Huntington junior Michael Abbondandelo said, despite head coach Brian Carey pulling his starters. “We started driving to the hole more and definitely got more rebounds. Our bench definitely earned that — they needed to go in at that point — it was right to put them in.”
With the win Kings Park improves to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in league play. The Kingsmen will face Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.
Harvey topped the scoring chart for the Blue Devils with 17 and Lawrence tacked on 14.
With the loss Huntington drops to 2-6 overall and 1-2 in the league and plays West Islip Jan. 3 at home at 5:45 p.m.