A capacity crowd at Southampton High School erupted in jubilation during the closing seconds of Monday night’s Suffolk County Class B semifinal game, only to be silenced at the buzzer as the Mariners’ season was brought to an abrupt and heartbreaking end.
Visiting Center Moriches had two points before the game even started following a technical foul call during warm-ups, and 32 minutes later Red Devils junior forward Akyse Brown streaked to the basket in the final second to knock down the game-winner.
The dramatic 69-67 win advanced Center Moriches to Wednesday’s Class B final against Babylon, which knocked off Hampton Bays in Monday’s other semifinal.
Southampton, which finished the season with a League VII title and 13-6 overall record, will now look to next season as they send off another talented class of Mariner seniors.
“I think our effort was good, we just didn’t make smart decisions,” Southampton head coach Herm Lamison said long after the game had ended. “This was one of, if not the most difficult leagues I’ve seen in 24 years. The game could have gone either way and unfortunately for us, it didn’t go our way.”
Center Moriches senior Maleek Harris hit two free throws before the game started after Southampton’s Michael Gilliam was seen dunking in warm-ups, which is not allowed by rule. Lamison said it did not affect the way his team played, but acknowledged that the two points made the ultimate difference in the game. “There was still 32 minutes to play after that,” Lamison said.
Senior Donovan Trent came off the bench to score 14 points for Southampton, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. His two foul shots with 6.4 seconds left put the Mariners up, 67-66, and sent the home crowd, which was nearly packed to the ceiling, into a frenzy.
But the Red Devils’ dynamic senior backcourt of Harris and Tim Rowland, who combined for 30 points and 17 assists, took over from there, working the ball quickly into the hands of Brown, who finished at the rim and was fouled, knocking down the free throw to provide the final margin. Brown finished with a game-high 24 points, although none were more important than the final three.
“We wanted to force it quickly to the baseline because they hadn’t done a good job defending there all night,” said Center Moriches head coach Nick Thomas, a former star player from Bridgehampton who was also coaching before a large crowd of friends and family. “Every game means something in the playoffs, but for my Bridgehampton family to come here fresh off winning a championship and support me was a great feeling.”
Sophomore Shaundell Fishburne led Southampton with 16 points, while senior Adam Fezza ended his career as a Mariner scoring 10. Gilliam, Malcolm Williams, Trent and Atreyu Reddick will also graduate for Southampton.
“I was very happy with their effort, and for Donovan Trent to do what he did, I was very happy with that,” Lamison said, adding that next year’s team should be right back in the hunt for a title with players from the junior varsity team, which finished 15-2, moving up to join a corps of Fishburne, Devon Trent and Travon Smith. “We’re looking forward to getting started tomorrow on next year.”