SELDEN – Capturing a section title last week was enough to make coach Bill Kyle call the Millbrook boys basketball season a success. Any accomplishments beyond that point, he said then, would be “gravy.”
“Not quite,” he said on Saturday, amending his previous thought. “It’s gravy, but it still hurts. When you come this far and get this close, you get that feeling that it’s within your grasp. It hurts a lot to fall short.”
The Blazers season was a successful one, though, yielding their first Section 9 championship since 2009 and bringing them within a victory of the state final four.
But the campaign was cut short in a 45-27 loss to The Stony Brook School of Section 11 in a Class C regional final at Suffolk Community College in Selden.
Millbrook struggled offensively, and Stony Brook performed better than it had for most of the season, dominating the paint defensively. Its height advantage and shot-blocking prowess was too much for the Blazers.
“It was frustrating,” guard Humberto Cabrera said. “Every time you went inside, you had to go through two people.”
The two often were 6-foot-6 Jyles Etienne and 6-foot-4 Mac Bohuny, each of whom blocked several shots, altered many others and, essentially nullified dribble penetration.
“We were stymied all day,” Kyle said. “We struggled to get anything going against this team.”
Stony Brook faces Cooperstown or Moravia in a state semifinal on Friday at Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
Millbrook played well defensively in the first half, but scoring was an arduous task. Outside shots weren’t falling consistently, and a number of drives inside ended with an attempt being swatted away. The Blazers trailed 21-18 at halftime but were held to a point in the third quarter as Stony Brook pulled away. The lead eventually grew to 45-24 in the fourth quarter.
Cabrera, who had averaged better than 29 points in his previous two playoff games, was held to six on Saturday — all in the first half. The Bears defense collapsed on him whenever he breached the paint, and they rotated defenders on him along the perimeter.
Shane Sinon and Colby Whalen each added four points for Millbrook (17-7).
“This is a young team,” Kyle said. “We got this far, and now we build to take the next step.”
Stony Brook’s 15 third-quarter points, though far from a gaudy total, were enough to seize control of the game. Brandon Providence, a speedy 5-foot-5 guard, scored 16 points to lead the Bears (15-14). Etienne added 13 points.
“They were better than what it looked like on film,” Kyle said of Stony Brook, a small private school in Suffolk County. “We watched a lot of film on them, but sometimes it’s still hard to get a feel.”
Stony Brook won the Long Island title last season as well, and lost to Haldane in the regional final.
The bright spot for Millbrook is its roster includes only two seniors, and juniors comprise the core. This group, Kyle said, “put Millbrook basketball back on the map.” It has a good chance to contend next season and, perhaps, from this loss can be extracted experience and motivation.
“I’m very proud of what we did this year,” Cabrera said. “Our expectation was to be competitive and we exceeded that. But this motivates us a lot. We’re gonna come out so hard next year.”
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4