You live by the three, you die by the three.
It’s a saying that’s thrown around in high school basketball quite a bit these days, but it really sticks when it comes to the Southampton boys basketball team.
The Mariners did both on Saturday—they made 13 from the beyond the arc overall, but the one that mattered most, their last attempt of the day, fell a little short, leading to a 70-67 loss to Our Lady of Lourdes (Section I: Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester) in the New York State Class A boys basketball semifinals at Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton.
Lourdes went on to play Irondequoit (Section V: Genesee Valley) in the state championship on Sunday and lost, 54-43. Irondequoit defeated Jamesville/DeWitt (Section III: Central New York), 68-56, in the other semifinal to advance to the championship game.
Trailing by seven points with under two minutes remaining in the game, Southampton senior Aaron Krzyzewski made two baskets, then senior Andre Franklin’s layup with 27 seconds left made it a one-point game at 68-67, forcing Lourdes to call a timeout.
Directly out of the break, the Mariners, in a full-court press, forced a turnover and Krzyzewski had the ball right underneath the basket but missed the wide-open opportunity that would have given Southampton the lead. Instead, Lourdes gained possession and Southampton intentionally fouled. Lourdes freshman Aidan Hildebrand made both of his free throws to make it a 70-67 game with 9.8 seconds remaining.
The Mariners called a timeout, regrouped and drew up a play. They got exactly what they wanted: point guard Elijah Wingfield brought the ball up, who dropped it off to Krzyzewski, who then handed it off to senior Chad Pike, who had a wide open look at the basket, but his shot fell a bit short, and Lourdes went on to celebrate its victory.
While everything went off smoothly on the last play, Wingfield explained afterwards that the play was set up a little too far away from the three-point line.
“We like to get that shot a little closer to the three-point arc,” he said. “It was a little far out, so the shot was off.”
Lourdes held a five-point lead at halftime of Saturday’s semifinal, 36-31, but Southampton went on a 14-2 run to start the second half to take a 50-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Warriors came out of the gates fast in the fourth, going on a 9-0 run in the first 2:30 to take a 55-50 lead.
The Mariners continued to cut into Lourdes’ lead and a three-pointer by Wingfield tied it up at 57-57 with under 4:30 remaining in the game. Two minutes later, though, Lourdes senior Kevin Townes hit a three, then stole the ball at mid-court and scored on the fast break to give the Warrior’s a 66-61 lead, which led up to the game’s final play.
Saturday’s game was everything a state semifinal should be, with multiple lead changes, a number of runs on both sides, and a handful of players stepping up. Wingfield finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, and led Southampton with four three-pointers. Krzyzewski led the Mariners with 23 points, which included two threes, and eight rebounds. Senior Timmy Alejo made three from beyond the arc for his nine points. Pike had seven points and sophomore Micah Snowden did an admirable job of covering Lourdes’ best player in senior center James Anozie.
Although there were stretches where Anozie was non-existent, there were also times where he went on a few runs; he finished with a game-high 25 points. Lourdes also had key contributions from Hildebrand and Townes, who both finished with 21 points. Anozie, Hildebrand and Townes accounted for all but three of their team’s points.
“The kids left it on the floor, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Southampton head coach Herm Lamison said after the game. “We’ve been a three-point shooting team all season long; that last shot really should not be the shot that really defines us in our season. We ran the play—we got the exact shot that we wanted—it was just not meant to be.”
The Mariners were understandably upset after the loss and had a hard time holding back tears.
“We played our hearts out, but, obviously it wasn’t enough,” Wingfield said. “We could have knocked down some more shots, [gotten] more offensive rebounds, but at the end of the day we had a good season.
“Just to come up to [Class A] this year and make it to states, it’s school history,” he added. “I’m really proud of the guys and I know they feel the same way.”
Lamison was, once again, grateful for the opportunity to play for a state title. He was the head coach for the program’s only state championship during the 1999-2000 season.
“Kids are hurt. It’s a very painful loss for these kids,” he said. “We had aspirations, as I did, to play in tomorrow’s [championship] game. Just winning one is something that a lot of coaches dream about but never do, and for me to bring a team up a second time 17 years later, I’m humbled to be able to do that.”
A large group of Southampton and East End residents got on a 3:30 a.m., jam-packed Hampton Jitney to make the five-hour trek to Binghamton. Lamison was appreciative of the community support.
“I think it was fabulous that they all came up,” he said. “We always have good support. Our community is a very basketball-oriented community. They really support the kids and I was happy to see that kind of support.”
Now comes the hard part of looking toward next season for Lamison and the Mariners. The team is graduating seven seniors, which includes Alejo, Franklin, Krzyzewski, Pike, Eddie Arnold, Avory Johnson and Tyren Smith. Alejo and Pike were part of a large group that was called up to varsity as freshmen. They were part of very successful teams that won multiple county and Long Island titles, which now includes a state Final Four appearance.
Lamison is hoping that the freshmen that were called up toward the end of this season for the team’s postseason run will see what the upperclassmen did in front of them and make it a point to, at the very least, reach the same goals.
“Our message is simple and clear: you see what these kids are accomplishing in three years, that should be your goal for the next three years and give you some motivation to really put it together to get back and have an opportunity,” he said.