As Greenport’s boys basketball team huddled to form its clap-and-dance celebration circle, a familiar face stepped in to stomp his feet: head coach Ev Corwin.
“It was such a long, brutal wait,” he said, still catching his breath from all the excitement. “For the game to just get started was a load off my back, and when I saw Jaxan Swann and Ahkee Anderson scoring from all over the court like I know they can today, I knew we were in good hands.”
The pair combined for 55 points, more their half their team’s total in Greenport’s 91-77 win over Tuckahoe in the Class C regional finals at Centereach High School March 9. The Porters (19-2) have been waiting for this moment after a long bus ride home last year following a state semifinal loss.
“I’m so happy this is out of the way,” said Anderson (28 points, five rebounds, six assists), before smiling to add, “I’m ready to go upstate and make some noise.”
Greenport came into the game looking to pressure the ball on defense after focusing on some new defensive strategies in practice the last two weeks. The Porters also wanted to stay sharp on offense. Although it took a little time, they achieved both goals in addition to grabbing rebounds on both ends of the court.
Tuckahoe was up 21-16 at the end of the first quarter after scoring back-to-back threes, and opened the second with another before Jaxan Swann (26 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and five steals) made his first of three from beyond the arc. It sparked a 10-0 Greenport run capped by an Anderson (four three-pointers) long-range shot that put the Porters out front for good. Swann was also the heart of the press that forced 24 Tigers turnovers, and fatigued the team down the stretch.
“Coaches were telling me to be more handsy on defense, not on the ball but off the ball, to jump more passes and be more aggressive,” Swann said. “I just listened to them, got a couple steals, and after that it was all instinct.”
Anderson made another three before Swann and his older brother Jude (17 points, 13 rebounds) sandwiched a Tuckahoe field goal for a 32-28 advantage, but Zach Riggins (12 points, five rebounds) coming off the bench to score six Porters points in a one-minute span was exactly what the doctor ordered.
“He gave us a big shot in the arm today,” Corwin said. “That’s what you need.”
“He gave us so much energy, was that spark off the bench,” Anderson added. “Everyone came in with a job to do, and everyone executed.”
Jaxan Swann tipped an in-bounds Tuckahoe pass, gained possession, scored, and was fouled. After converting the 3-point play a Tuckahoe layup left Greenport with a five-point lead, 45-40, heading into halftime.
Swann scored his final three-pointer before his brother’s offensive rebound in the third extended Greenport’s lead to 59-44. Six straight points brought Tuckahoe within nine, but it was as close as the Tigers would come the rest of the way.
“We work together, always want to feed the hot hand, but everyone had the hot hand today,” Anderson said.
Greenport will play in the state Final Four March 16 at 10:45 a.m., taking on the winner of the Section III Cooperstown- Section IV Unadilla Valley matchup in the semifinals at the Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton. The Porters are looking to become the first team in school history in any sport to bring home a title.
“I think this is our time,” Swann said. “We’re looking to make a statement.”
He said he’s hoping he can get his “goofy” coach to let loose once more next weekend at the biggest dance of all.
“He was pumped up after working us hard for weeks,” Anderson said, adding he thinks the upset loss to Class D’s Bridgehampton in the C/D championship game February 16 was an eye-opener for his Porters to push that much harder. “He hasn’t been able to sleep for weeks, so for now, I know he can rest easy until we go upstate and handle business.”
Corwin let out a sigh of relief after hoisting the Class C Southeast Regional championship plaque above his head: “To get back to Binghamton is everything.”