This Swann song had hearts aching.
Greenport guard Jaxan Swann hit the court hard, grabbing his knee under the basket after playing more than 40 straight minutes of basketball. His team trailed by five points with 2:15 remaining in triple overtime, but the senior refused to stay down. He rose from the floor, jogged to mid-court and back, and decided after seconds on the sideline it was time to get back in it with his Porters dangerously behind Cooperstown in their Class C state semifinal matchup.
“I didn’t want to let my brothers down,” Swann said fighting back tears. “This was my last game. I couldn’t just be done. The job wasn’t done. I’d given it my all … but I had to get back up and give it some more.”
After two straight Cooperstown buckets put the Hawkeyes up 101-92, Swann swished a 3-pointer for the last score of his high school career. Unfortunately, after 44 minutes he and the rest of the Porters were gassed, as they fell 108-98 at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. It was the Porters’ second straight loss in semifinals.
“Me and my brother, we balled out,” said Swann, who finished with 26 points, five assists, three steals, and three rebounds. “It was a fun game. That’s all it is. It’s supposed to be fun.”
His older brother Jude had a double-double on 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 35 seconds left in the first overtime. He also added four assists.
“These guys over the last couple of years have become part of my family,” head coach Ev Corwin said. “They’ve come over my house. I’m going to miss seeing these guys every day. I love them.”
Jude Swann hit the 1,000-career point and rebounding mark in January, while Jaxan fell just 19 points shy of that milestone while averaging 21.9 points per game this season. And the pair didn’t skip a beat in the semifinal.
Jaxan hit a free throw for a three-point play to bring the Porters to within three, 20-17, with 1:56 left in the first quarter. Jude hit a layup with 36 seconds left to give Greenport the lead, 22-21, for the first time since the game’s opening bucket. Jaxan stole the ball and passed to Ahkee Anderson for a score with 43 seconds left in the first half, and received a pass and hit a jumper with 24 seconds remaining to pull the Porters within one, 43-42 at the half.
Jaxan knocked down another free throw to complete a three-point play to give Greenport a 75-73 lead with 46 seconds left in regulation. Unfortunately, Cooperstown’s Jack Lambert, who scored a record-breaking 53 points, tied the game with 29 seconds left to force overtime.
“Jack Lambert was amazing today, made big shot after big shot,” Corwin said. “We tried every little thing to slow him down.”
The center of the Hawkeyes
Anderson, who led Greenport with 30 points, nine assists, seven steals, and six rebounds, marveled at the player he was up against on both ends of the court all afternoon.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve seen,” Anderson said of Lambert. “I tip my hat to that team. We’re unhappy with the result — of course we wanted to make it to the state championship game — but I think we’re satisfied just with the way everyone played so hard. It was a historic game we’ll always remember.”
Corwin described Lambert as “Larry Bird-esque.” Besides the Cooperstown senior’s points total being a new record in a state semifinal or championship game, according to state officials, the two teams combined for the highest point total. Their 206 easily eclipsed the 179 produced in a Traditional-Hutchinson game in 1982. Also helping the Hawkeyes to the win was 6-8 sophomore John Kennedy, a dominating force in the paint. The big man had 25 points going 11-for-15 on field goals. He also came down with 22 rebounds.
“I never saw that type of play out of him on tape, and that’s why I always take the tape with a grain of salt,” Corwin said. “He was a much, much better player offensively than I’ve seen. And defensively, he was very smart.”
Resiliency an understatement
Each time Greenport was knocked down the Porters picked themselves up, both metaphorically and literally, powering back time after time to answer Cooperstown’s spurts to keep the game close.
Senior Zach Riggins (eight points, nine rebounds) and freshman Ev Corwin Jr. (11 points, three rebounds) provided clutch plays to keep Greenport in it. Corwin had a three-point play that tied the game early 11-all, and hit his final eight points, including two threes, in the fourth quarter. His first shot from beyond the arc opened the final quarter and put Greenport out front 60-55, and the second tied the game at 68 at the 5:24 mark. His final two points scored on a 1-and-1 knotted things again at 70.
“We weren’t expecting it to go to three overtimes, but this showed we have a lot of heart,” Anderson said. “I’m very proud of this team and all we accomplished this year.”
He and Swann never left the game, proving their resiliency, especially to their coach.
“They gave everything they had, and that’s not surprising to me. That’s what these guys are made of,” Corwin said. “It’s an unbelievable effort to play that many minutes and they’re still hitting shots at the end.”
And Anderson said he expected nothing less when Swann returned in the final minutes.
“He kept his composure. He played a hard game all season, was working hard all season,” Anderson said. “This was his last game, and he didn’t want to sit out. I just love him so much for that, for all of this.”
Swann said it was the crowd, the one that greeted him at the gate outside the locker room after the game, that kept him coming back. They cheered him and his teammates on like they’d won the game.
“It’s not often you get to play from a village like ours on a stage like this in front of a huge crowd like that,” Swann said. “Being a part of this community, it’s the best. They give us everything, and for them I’ll do anything.”