The Center Moriches boys basketball team may have lost its New York State Class B semifinal game, 71-58, to Westhill on Friday night, but just getting to the state Final Four was an accomplishment in and of itself.
The Red Devils are extremely young, with eight sophomores on a 14-man roster, many of which start or receive a lot of minutes off the bench. Center Moriches head coach Nick Thomas—a state champion with Bridgehampton High School in 1996, his senior year, and business manager of the Press News Group—was proud of the season his young players had, despite the lopsided loss this past weekend.
"I can't say enough about my guys. We’ve had a great season," he said. "These guys have grown, but not just as basketball players, they’ve grown as young men, they really have. They’ve learned life lessons that will stay with them as much as what they’ve learned in the gym.
"I can't thank them enough for the tremendous effort they put in day in and day out, to work this hard, to get this far," Thomas continued. "Sometimes you have to go through it just to understand what it takes, for us, I think that's what it was today, but this won't be our last trip [to states]."
Westhill (Section III: Central New York) held on a to a tight 15-10 lead over Center Moriches after the first quarter and slowly built on that lead as the game wore on. The Warriors held a 37-20 lead at halftime and eventually put things out of reach with a 58-36 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Westhill, which is just outside of Syracuse, went on to win the Class B state title with an 80-62 victory over Canton (Section X: St. Lawrence Area) on Saturday night. Canton advanced to the state final with a 67-55 victory over Health Sciences Charter (Section VI: Western New York) on Friday night.
Led by junior Sean Dadey's 22 points, Westhill shot 58 percent from the field overall against Center Moriches. Senior Kameron Jackson scored 18 points for the Warriors. Sophomore Tyiquon Nix led Center Moriches with 19 points and junior Troy Goode chipped in with 16.
Although the game was out of reach for a good portion of the second half, the Red Devils played hard the entire game, something Thomas was proud of. He explained that the team had a mantra this season called E.A.T.: effort, attitude and trust.
"That's the staple of the program," he said. "We talk about how everyone has to E.A.T., and that's something that I don't coach; the players always bring that to the table every single day. I've never had to coach effort, their attitudes have been tremendous throughout the growing process, and we trust in our preparation, and that helped us perform every day.
"You can't teach experience, you can certainly learn from it," Thomas added. "Win or lose, we talk about learning from every game, and this is a tremendous learning lesson and a process they have to trust and we have to learn from. Hopefully, next year it'll work out in our favor."