If only . . . . If only the Huntington boys’ basketball team could have scored a few more points in a handful of games.
The Blue Devils strived to maintain their collective optimism despite finding the starting lineup shorthanded at times this past winter. But a series of close losses stung and stopped whatever momentum Huntington was starting to build.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Blue Devils did feature some fine individual performers. Kevin Lawrence was named to the All-League and All-Conference teams. Taqwan Gooden-Hill also earned All-League honors. James Shea was picked for the All-Academic team.
Captained by Lawrence and Shea, the 12-player Blue Devil squad was coached by Brian Carey and Frank Mantesta. Huntington finished with a 4-10 record in league play; 5-15 overall.
“Despite our record, we continued to compete as a ‘team,’” Carey said. “The chemistry of this team was good. With only one starter returning from last season, the competitive learning curve was good.”
Huntington dropped one-point league games to Newfield and West Islip and lost by three points to league foe Centereach. Had the Blue Devils won those three games the team would have gained a post-season berth.
Lawrence averaged 18.3 points and nine rebounds per game from his forward position. He connected for 30 three-point baskets. “Kevin is a team leader, top scorer, rebounder and most outstanding player,” Carey said. He played 15 of 20 games with a broken finger in a splint and gave us terrific effort.”
Gooden-Hill averaged 11.2 points and hit 40 three-pointers at f. “He went from 6.2 points in the first round of league games to 17.8 in the second round,” Carey said. “His three-point shooting improved remarkably.”
Junior Mike Abbondandelo starred at point guard, averaging 6.7 points, 7.6 assists and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line. “Mike handled to ball consistently throughout the season,” Carey said. “He fought through a two week bout of bronchitis in mid-season. He’s next year’s team leader.”
Huntington averaged 52 points per game, but it surrendered 57.2. “This was a team capable of winning two quarters within a game, looking good and losing the game [after] lacking consistency for extended time periods,” Carey said.
The season was not without its highlights. Huntington defeated North Babylon in home and away games, 45-42 and 70-59. The Bulldogs compiled an 8-6 mark in league play and qualified for the playoffs.
“These were good kids who were not afraid to work hard,” said Carey about his squad. “Only one starter returned from last season’s team, so we were somewhat inexperienced.”
Looking ahead to next winter, Huntington will return Abbondandelo, Ian Ardell, Gerard Federici, Ryan Gorecki, Mekhi Harvey, Nick Inman and Travis Robinson. West Islip will be leaving the league while tough Half Hollow Hills East will be moving into it.
Blue Devil Notes: In addition to North Babylon, the Blue Devils claimed victories over East Hampton (58-36), Smithtown East (57-44) and Newfield (54-50) . . . Lawrence, Gooden-Hill, Shea, Keegan Dunne and Alejandro Hinds are all graduating in June . . . Lawrence led Huntington in free throws made and was second in Suffolk . . . Tyler Gerbavsits served as team manager . . . Jolena Smith was Huntington’s statistician.