Despite a storybook late-season run, the Sailors of Oceanside will not be living happily ever after as they fell 64-53 to No. 5 Hicksville last Saturday afternoon in the Nassau Class AA boys’ basketball playoffs.
Oceanside had been 5-1 since Jan. 17, its only loss coming in overtime, to bring its overall record to 10-8 and propel it into the playoffs.
“The second half of the season the kids played very hard and very well,” Coach Dan Keegan said. “I think our guys may have just run out of gas today.”
An out-bracket playoff win over Massapequa may have been the biggest of the season for No. 12 Oceanside and no one came up bigger in that game than senior Hunter Sabety. The center scored 48 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Valentine’s Day bout that sent his team into the playoffs.
Saturday was not as proficient for Sabety as he was held to 14. Hicksville triple-teamed Sabety almost every time he touched the ball, resulting in the offensive hiccup. He did however make up for it on the defensive end as almost any Hicksville player who tried a shot near the hoop felt the wrath of Sabety’s long arms followed by his Dikembe Mutumbo-esque finger wag.
“We didn’t do a very good job of getting him the ball but he played very well, he guarded our rim very well,” Keegan said of his star. “He had a great career, an unbelievable season and he did what he could do but there were bodies on him the whole game.”
Picking up the slack for Oceanside was Casey Kelly, a junior who ran the point the entire game while contributing 17 points and displaying a very smooth jumper.
“He’s a junior who really stepped up and continues to step up,” Keegan said of Kelly. “He’s going to be a big part of next year, he’s a very confident kid and he kept us in the game when we were very flat offensively.”
The sharpshooting of Kelly kept Oceanside within reach throughout; he tied the game in the third, and a four-point play by senior Jonah Kaplan brought the deficit to one in the fourth but the Sailors had no answer for Hicksville’s Nick Petrucelli, who was lights-out down the stretch and paced all scorers with 25 points.
Other contributors for Oceanside were Tim Nolan, who hit a big trey in the first half and played stingy perimeter defense all game and Ryan Hertling who clogged the post all game, especially when Sabety was on the bench with foul trouble.
The game was played at Hicksville but that wasn’t evident by the crowd noise. Oceanside fans came out with such force the school brought its own crowd control personnel.
Despite the tough ending, next season looks bright for Oceanside, and Keegan is confident in his bunch.
“They’re a great group of kids and they are very easy to coach,” he said. “We’ll get over this loss in the next three months and start thinking about next year.”