By Andres Rivas
In the last five days, all the doubts about Bellport were thrown out the window as the Clippers defeated North Babylon and Smithtown West to advance to the Final Four.
Bellport entered the playoffs as the third seed and had a 13-0 record at home (19-1 overall). North Babylon entered this game as the 14th seed with a 4-6 record on the road (9-9 overall). The Clippers took care of home court in their first test, defeating the Bulldogs 71-62.
In the first quarter it was an equivalent game and the pace was to a minimum; it was tied at 14. In the second quarter we saw more of the same. Frank Toney hit a 3 for the visiting team and Devon Balfour answered with a 3 of his own for the Clippers. From there on they exchanged buckets and good defensive possessions. With seven seconds left, Jarell White made a layup beating the buzzer and Bellport held a two-point lead at halftime. In the second half, we saw more of the same — defensive possessions, forced turnovers and buckets from both teams. With the clock expiring, North Babylon got a 3 of their own from Frank Toney to beat the buzzer and hold a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
When the last eight minutes came — Bellport’s favorite quarter to play — they unleashed their artillery. Balfour had two 3-pointers and Jaylen Trent added one of his own to build a six-point lead with two minutes remaining. From there on, Bellport defended well and Kyleim Robinson hit two free throws to ice the game. Robinson lead the team with 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Balfour had 18 points and five boards. White had 17 points, 11 rebounds, a couple of assists and a steal. Trent had eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Teandre Rountree had four points, four rebounds and 10 assists. Kavon Brown added two points, three boards and an assist.
With one victory in hand, Bellport needed one more to advance to the Final Four at Farmingdale State College.
In their path was Smithtown West, who was the sixth seed. They had a 7-1 record on the road (16-4) overall and had defeated No. 11 seed Northport, 73-56. Bellport once again held homecourt and they defeated Smithtown West 72-60. In this game Bellport looked forward to pushing the pace and grabbing an amplified lead early on and they did just that. To start the game, Smithtown West had a 6-0 run and the Clippers needed a timeout to recalculate and play their game. They scored 18 points and allowed 10 points for a two-point lead. With a tied game at 27 in the second quarter, Bellport went on a 12-2 run to hold a nine-point lead at halftime.
Opening the third quarter, Bellport looked forward to holding their end, allowing only 11 points in the quarter and scoring another 20 to build an 18-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, Bellport took care of business for their 12-point victory.
“We had to stay locked in. It’s our gym and we had to take care of it,” said Balfour.
“We have to stay humble. This is only the beginning,” added Robinson.
With Deer Park’s victory against Longwood, 57-52, the No. 2 seed and the No. 3 seed will face off this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Farmingdale. Bellport and Deer Park already met twice this season, with both teams scoring 129 points and allowing 129 points.
“The message from coach after the Deer Park loss was to go even harder because we could see them in the Final Four. We have our ups and downs, but we have to stay together,” White said.