Port Washington boys fall in Class AA county final

Port Washington boys fall in Class AA county final
Port Washington senior Camren Welker (5) and his teammates reached the Class AA county finals this season. Photo credit: James Maguire/Skybox Images

They were trying to do something no Port Washington boys basketball team had done since 1947.

It had been 76 years since a county title was won by Schreiber High, and for a while Saturday night at Hofstra’s David S. Mack Center, it looked like the drought would finally end.

But underneath a barrage of missed free throws and missed opportunities, the Vikings just could not finish the job. Baldwin, the defending champs of Nassau Class AA made more clutch plays down the stretch and hung on for a 45-39 win in the Class AA county final.

“They just made one or two more plays than we did, it was right there for us and our kids are just crushed we couldn’t get it done,” said Port Washington coach Sean Dooley, as his red-eyed players slowly walked out of the locker room for the last time this season. “These were two good offensive teams, and they made a few more plays at the end to beat us.”

It was not a pretty offensive game by any means, as each basket felt like a miracle, with both teams digging hard on defense and shooters from both teams having trouble with the larger arena backdrop and, also, the nerves of playing for a title and a place in local history.

Just like the first two games between the two rivals this season, which were both won by the Bruins by a total of nine points, this one was close throughout.

Neither offense could get into any kind of flow, with the 19-16 halftime score illustrating just how difficult it was to get points.

The Vikings (17-6) played much of the first half without senior point guard and leader Camren Welker, who picked up two quick fouls in the opening quarter and sat for most of the second period.

“We’ve had times this season where we had guys in foul trouble and other people stepped up, and they did that tonight,” Dooley said. “But Cam is such a big part of our team so its tough when he’s out.”

Still, with hundreds of Port fans cheering every positive play by the blue and white, the Vikings hung in, and had a chance in the third quarter to pull away at times.

After an electrifying driving layup by Welker (12 points to lead his team), Port Washington led, 26-22 with two minutes left in the third, and it felt like one or two more baskets by the Vikings might’ve just given them an insurmountable lead.

“I’m so proud of Cam,” Dooley said. “He’s come so far since his freshman year. He comes and works his butt off, and I’m so happy he got a chance to play in this environment and show a big crowd how good he really is.

But Baldwin (21-2) hung in and clawed their way back, keeping the game in striking distance.

“We had a few turnovers and a few bad shots but Baldwin is very very tough,” Dooley said. “That defense tonight that they played was a lot stronger than the first two times we played them. They were really good.”

In the fourth quarter, neither team could leave the other behind, and that’s where missed free throws really damaged Port Washington. The Vikings missed the front end of 1-and-1’s three straight times, en route to nine missed foul shots on the night when they went 7-for-16 from the line.

But with Baldwin up 35-32, sophomore Kenny Daly hit a huge 3-pointer from the left side to tie the game with 1:30 left.

The crowd went wild and it looked like maybe, just maybe, the streak that’s lasted three quarters of a century would finally end.

But Baldwin’s Jaylen Brown answered with a tough 3-pointer from the left corner, with two defenders on him, to push the Bruins back up 38-35, and Port Washington could never come back from that.

Trevor Amalfitano, the junior who has been the Vikings’ leading scorer all season, was held to nine points by the hounding Bruins defense.

For the Vikings, reaching the final meant going one step further than last year, and they’ll return almost every key player for next season.

But that was little consolation for the devastated players after the game. Coming SO close to history hurt a lot.

“I’m so proud of everything these kids accomplished, and yes this was a big step in getting experience in this environment for our kids,” Dooley said. “But yeah, to get this close, these kids are taking it hard.”

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