The boys varsity basketball team closed out its season last Wednesday night with a loss to Massapequa in a non-league game. However, this game was almost an exhibition game due to the results from Monday's game against Mepham which ended Port's hopes for a post season. Monday's game ended in overtime with Port losing by the score of 58-56 and the hope of making the playoffs fading away.
The boys went into last Monday, Feb. 1, looking for the last playoff seed in their conference. A win against Mepham and they're in. A loss to Mepham and they would fall out of the playoff hunt and Mepham would grab the last spot. The game was played on Port's home court, in front of their home crowd and the stage was set. However, Mepham had other ideas, led by a tall front court and quick guards, the boys knew that this was going to be no easy game. Port stumbled out of the gates early, scoring only eight points in the first quarter, largely due to poor shot selection and Brian Moran getting into early foul trouble on some questionable defensive calls by the referees. Fred Dumpson, however, was able to penetrate much more in the second quarter, especially off the fast break. Toward the end of the second quarter, Dumpson set James up off the back board for a monster slam, which gave Port some momentum going into the locker rooms for halftime, particularly due to the explosion of the crowd after such a terrific play. The game was moved from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m., due to all that has been going on with Mepham High School this year. Port did not want to have any outrageous and inappropriate actions if more people were available to attend the game. This was a questionable call. Although there were many in the stands, there were not nearly as many who could have attended due to the old starting time. This gives you the feeling that the sports coordinators in Port were more concerned with possible inappropriate behavior than with some school and community spirit.
After trailing by only seven points, Port was still very much in this game. The boys came back in the third quarter, playing much sounder basketball. Led by a surprisingly great game from Scott Pecklis, Port was staying right in the basketball game. Pecklis has been a sound player in the Port inside game, but he hadn't played a game like he did against Mepham that night all season long. He grabbed countless offensive rebounds, giving the Viking many second opportunities. He also made some great defensive plays, making an emphatic block at the end of the third quarter to stop a Mepham scoring drive and to give Port a transition opportunity. Although they played much harder in the third quarter, Port still found themselves down by six points going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was when this game really started getting interesting. After failing to score for the first 3 minutes of the quarter, Port realized this was their last shot at making the playoffs, so they began to fight. Already down by 12 now, Port stepped up their defense and began driving to the basket. Led by Fred Dumpson who led all Port scorers with 22 points and some tough rebounding and scoring from Ira James, Port was right back in it. Brian Moran orchestrated some important offensive drive down the stretch, making way for a tie ball game. The key to the comeback was really the foul trouble that Mepham was in. Port was able to go to the line much more often than Mepham, which not only stopped the clock, but gave the Vikings a clear path to points.
With only 25 seconds left in the ball game Port forced a bad shot and took possession of the ball. After a timeout, Port took the ball at half court. They now were able to take the last shot, because the shot clock was turned off. Moran held the ball all the way through until about 3 seconds left, when he drove to the right side of the basket. He jumped and got a clear shot off, but it just bounced off the backboard and the game was going into overtime. Moran is the best pure shooter Port has, so you have to give him the ball in that spot. It just didn't fall.
In overtime, tough defense was illustrated once again on both sides of the ball. However, Jamal Reid stepped up in the extra session, clamping down on defense and hitting key foul shots, which tied the ball game at 56-56. With Ira James driving for the lead in the final minute of overtime, he was blocked and came back down with the ball. However, a foul was called on James which was totally a blown call, and the referees knew it, after discussing it. However, they could not change the call, and so it stood. Mepham would get the ball on an inbounds with 40 seconds remaining. The Port faithful let the refs hear it, as they were very frustrated with the blown call. Nevertheless, Mepham failed to convert on a short basket attempt and Port was able to recover the ball and call a timeout with just six seconds remaining. The coach decided to put in junior Steve Lee for the final play, most likely to add some speed in case there was trouble inbounding the ball. Moran was unable to find any open man and the 5 second rule was almost whistled until Moran found Lee coming back toward him for the inbounds pass. However, the man guarding Lee jolted ahead of him at the final second and grabbed the ball, passing to his teammate and taking the lead 58-56. Port had 2.3 seconds left, but a desperation shot by Moran fell just short, ending Port's hopes for a run in the postseason.
A tough season ended in an even tougher way. To lose a game like that is difficult to overcome, for the underclassmen coming back next year and even the seniors, such as Mike Ryder, Brian Moran, Ira James, Scott Pecklis, Fred Dumpson, Stefan Kirov, Mike Bellino and even manager Jared Zeidman. This game will be remembered for many years as a loss. But sitting in that gym, during and after the game, I could just feel a bit of accomplishment setting in. With all the injuries and troubles this team suffered, they still found themselves in a great position, and fought back from a 12 point deficit, to go into overtime. This boys varsity basketball season will not go down in any history or record books, but the work and determination illustrated by these fine young men should be commended.