The drought is finally over and it was quenched in style no less.
The Westhampton Beach boys basketball team ended a decade-long absence from the postseason with a major 54-37 upset victory in front of a standing-room-only crowd at home over previously undefeated Harborfields on January 28. In fact, the Tornadoes hadn’t lost a league game for four years until this past week.
The Hurricanes (6-5 League V, 8-8 overall), who needed one victory in their final three regular season games to make the playoffs, hadn’t seen postseason play since 2003. The seniors on this season’s team were 7 years old the last time the varsity team had made the playoffs. But now Westhampton Beach will set their sights on making a postseason run. The Suffolk County Class A playoffs are scheduled to begin Thursday, February 13.
Westhampton Beach didn’t wait long to get started against Harborfields. Senior captain Mike Frangeskos tipped the ball off the opening tip-off to junior Devonte Dixon, who went in and scored easily to give the Canes an early lead. By the end of the first quarter, Westhampton Beach had a 13-2 lead and wouldn’t let its foot off the gas pedal the rest of the game.
“I don’t think Harborfields expected us to come out with that much energy and intensity that we came out with,” Frangeskos said. “We were determined to give it our all that game though. We wanted to clinch a playoff spot and do it in front of our community and fans.”
Dixon finished with 28 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and went 8 of 10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Canes. But Dixon wasn’t the only contributor in the victory. Mike Frangeskos scored seven points while twin brother John stepped up with 13 points and five assists.
“It was probably the best feeling,” John said, of defeating Harborfields and clinching a playoff spot. “Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of practicing during the offseason, we knew it would pay off eventually and we wound up taking down one of the best teams on Long Island.
“We have some good players on our team and we never doubted our skills,” he continued. “And Coach gave us everything we needed to know to compete. We won for our coach, ourselves and the last 10 years of not being in the playoffs.”
John Baumiller took over as head coach at Westhampton Beach two years ago and is now partly responsible for turning around the program in a relatively short period of time. His players said they knew he was for real when he would drive from Montauk during the summer three days a week to practice in Westhampton Beach.
“Coach brought a whole ‘nother level of experience,” senior captain Luke Dyer said of Baumiller. “He’s blown teams out in the past, he’s been on the other end of that, and he’s also made the playoffs before and not made the playoffs, so he’s been in every situation possible and knows how to handle anything that comes our way. He’s our guiding light.
“He also brings a level of intensity that makes you want to win,” he added. “And he’s definitely hard on us too, but we don’t want him to be laid back. He definitely tries to make everyone better individually but as a team too.”
Baumiller said it didn’t matter what team came into town that night, his players were so focused they would have beaten anyone. “Our goal was to get to six wins and make the playoffs this year. They achieved it,” he said. “All of the credit goes to those kids. Everyone did the right thing and it was fun.”
Baumiller said the main reason his team took down Harborfields was team defense.
“Our team made them do things that they didn’t want to do,” he said. “They do a lot of off-the-ball cutting down the lane, so we had to protect the paint. And then we had to close out on their threes and also stop their dribble penetrations into lane and avoid second shots. And the kids did it all.”
Still on the high from defeating Harborfields, the Canes wound up losing their next game, 52-44, at Comsewogue on Friday night. It was the second time the Canes lost to the Warriors this season, but one. Baumiller said that should have never happened.
“We achieved our goal, so they reached a comfort level and it’s my job to motivate them again,” he said. “So I take the blame for that loss.”
John Frangeskos admitted that the team came out flat against Comsewogue. “The night before we had practice and we weren’t running our plays well, there was some goofing around,” he said. “We have high hopes though and don’t want to just beat Harborfields, go into playoffs and lose. We don’t want to go down on a low note so our next few practices have to be strong so we can get some good energy going into the playoffs.”
The Westhampton Beach girls basketball team suffered two lopsided defeats last week, effectively eliminating it from postseason contention. The Lady Hurricanes lost, 60-17, at Harborfields on January 28, then lost, 49-25, at home to Comsewogue on Friday. Westhampton Beach had an uphill climb to get to the playoff heading into the week, needing to win its final three regular season games against the top three teams in League V.
Westhampton Beach head coach Mike Polan said there was a play that happened in the loss to Comsewogue that described the season in a nutshell: a player took a shot and the ball got stuck between the rim and the backboard, giving possession to Comsewogue.
“The bounces haven’t really gone our way, but I credit the kids, they keep playing,” he said. “The officials came up to me after the Harborfields game to tell me that I had a hard-working group of girls who don’t give up. And it was nice to hear that from them.”
Westhampton Beach is 3-8 in League V, 7-10 overall.
ON THE SCHEDULE: Boys—Friday, 2/7, vs. Islip, 4 p.m. Girls—Thursday, 2/6, at Islip, 4:30 p.m.