“There’s no reason we can’t win this game,” Smithtown West senior Matt English told his team during warm-ups. “What do we have to lose? Nothing.”
So with that, the No. 4 Smithtown West boys’ basketball team battled on the boards and hung in there with a tough No. 1-seeded Brentwood team during the Suffolk County Class AA semifinals at Stony Brook University Sunday night. The team’s efforts may not have been enough, as the Bulls fell 61-49 to the Indians, but in head coach Mike Agostino’s eyes, the team did everything it needed to.
“We did everything that we usually do — we played our butts off, we executed on offense, we moved the ball, set screens, we did all of the things necessary to win the game,” he said. “In terms of what we can control and what we did, they did everything I wanted them to.”
Senior Nick Grande started the game off strong for the Bulls, stealing a pass and converting the opportunity for points with a breakaway layup just 13 seconds into the game.
Brentwood countered with two field goals of its own before senior Doug Levy tied it up with a layup of his own, and tied it up again with an offensive rebound on the Bulls’ next possession, to bring the score to 6-6.
Levy tapped in another offensive rebound and sophomore Chris Crespo added a put-in and two free-throw points, but at the end of the eight minutes, the Bulls found themselves down 20-12.
The two teams continued to trade points in the second stanza, but the Bulls’ deficit grew to 10 points, with a 29-19 halftime score.
Crespo started off the third like Grande did the first, stealing the ball and converting a layup at the 7:12 mark, and added a field goal and a 3-point play to go alone with junior Greg Giordano’s field goal early on to help Smithtown West close the gap to 35-28, but that was as close as the team would come.
English finished with a team-high 14 points, Giordano netted 11, Crespo tacked on seven and Levy and junior Kyle LaGuardia added seven points apiece.
The Bulls may have lost, but the boys kept up with the No. 1-ranked team in the county, and never stopped hustling.
“It’s nothing new; it doesn’t’ surprise me,” Agostino said of the team’s commitment to never quitting. “That’s the expectation. It doesn’t surprise me, but it fills me with a lot of pride each time I see them put forth that effort. I never felt choked up after losing a game, but I did with them. The emotion comes from how hard they tried and how much effort they put in, and that’s what makes me really happy.”
Some of the teammates took to Twitter after the game to express their gratitude and feelings on being a part of the program.
“Thanks to everyone who came out to support,” Giordano wrote. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go to battle with any other group of guys these past four years. I love all of you.”
Despite also playing baseball, and choosing to play it in college, Grande wrote about how glad he was to have had the opportunity to play for his hoops team.
“Loved this game since I first picked up a basketball,” he said. “Gonna miss it like hell, but I couldn’t have asked for a better last ride.”