Long Island's leading scorer in boys' basketball had another big night as The Stony Brook School turned it up late in the game to beat Port Jefferson 71-43 in a League VIII matchup.
Coming into the game five points away from his 1,000th career point, senior guard Tim Pandolfi said he had caught a fever the night before and wasn’t even sure he’d be able to play in this one. That fever seemed to play a role as Pandolfi missed his first six shots from the field, while Port Jefferson (4-2, 5-4) took an 8-2 lead.
“I felt like I was forcing it at first, but I start a lot of games off like that, it just takes some time to find my groove,” Pandolfi said.
With the first quarter winding down, Pandolfi drove to the hoop to sink in a layup, drew a foul and got the chance for a free throw. As his shot fell through the hoop, his teammates came to center court in congratulations, with the home crowd on their feet with applause. Pandolfi’s mother came onto the court and head coach Mike Hickey brought him his honorary 1,000th-point ball.
“Tim doesn’t really like the show aspect of it, he usually doesn’t even allow his parents to come down to the games,” Hickey said. “This was an important milestone, though, and a thanks to all the Pandolfis for their hard work and sacrifice in helping out this program.”
His family would bring him from Patchogue to Stony Brook whenever the court was open, paving the way for him to become the sixth player to reach 1,000 career points in the school’s 89-year history.
When the court cleared for the game to continue, the Royals’ Braden Colucci reminded everyone of the competition at hand as he charged down court for two, and put his team up 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. Colucci ended the game with 10 points. The Royals used their size well down low, and left few rebounds for the Bears. Port Jefferson’s Anthony Lanieri helped build that lead, and finished with a team-high 15 points.
But the Bears answered throughout the next quarter. Stony Brook guard Richie Armand closed in on every loose dribble and took them the other way on fast breaks; he finished with 11 points. Giving the Bears an even greater advantage was Royals forward Greg Nielson, who scored 12 points in the game but began nursing a sprained ankle after a fall in the first half. The half ended with the Bears up, 32-28.
In the third quarter, the lead changed again. The Royals were able to shut down the shooting that had given the Bears the lead but couldn’t cover much of the difference on offense. Port Jefferson ran hot in the third quarter and didn’t pay enough attention to slowing down and setting up an offense, but the aggressive defense allowed them to win the quarter while shrinking the Stony Brook lead to three.
The fourth quarter opened up with the Bears up 42-39, and they would play a flat-out abusive final eight minutes. Nearly every Royal pass inbounds was met by two defenders, knocked away and brought home for the Bears. The Bears put up 11 unanswered points in the first three minutes, turned it into a 29-4 run, and ended the game at 71-43. They improved to 6-1 (7-3).
“When you’re down three points going into the fourth quarter, everyone wants to be a hero, but no one wants to listen," Port Jefferson coach Mike Riley said. "We needed someone to just step up and control the ball, but there were just too many turnovers. We couldn’t get into our game.”
The Royals were also missing starting forward Terrell Rose, who was absent for a non-sports-related issue. Riley says that when this team’s together, he has no doubt that it will be a different game.
Hickey was all smiles. “That’s what it looks like when a team turns it on and is playing their game," he said. "It’s great for Tim’s success to be recognized, and it’s even better for the team to step up and know that they don’t have to rely on anyone.”
The Bears may not have relied entirely on Pandolfi, but his season-high 38 points certainly helped. Pandolfi says he’s had some looks from Division I schools, but thinks it would be best to hold off and try to build some strength at the next level in a junior college. He’s still shopping around right now until spring comes.
Both the Royals and Bears have lost to League VIII’s Greenport by under 10 points, and both seem confident that the results will be different the next time they meet. But before Greenport, these teams will face each other again as a makeup games has been scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 3 at Port Jefferson.