Friends Academy edges North Shore for county title


Friends Academy already had a pair of regular-season victories over conference rival North Shore in the bank when it denied the Vikings their first-ever boys’ basketball county championship Saturday afternoon at Farmingdale State College.

Senior Josh McKenzie had 12 points, senior Kyle Kramer and freshman Eyan Valdez 11 apiece, and senior Jackson O’Brien 10 as the top-seeded Quakers claimed the Class A title with a hard-fought 55-49 victory over No. 2 North Shore before electric large crowds for both sides.

“We know how tough it was going to be to beat them a third time,” Friends head coach Matt Johnsen said. “We didn’t play well in the first half. We rushed possessions and took some bad shots, but our defense was there. We just had to settle down offensively.”

It was the 17th consecutive victory for Friends Academy, which takes a record of 19-4 record into the Long Island Class A championship game matchup against Southampton next Saturday at Farmingdale State at 1 p.m.

North Shore (18-5) was attempting to avenge a pair of losses to Friends over the previous two months and make history. The Quakers won the first meeting 62-42 at home Jan. 11 and also took the rematch at North Shore, 68-50, Feb. 2.

North Shore senior Vasilis Triantafyllou had a game-high 20 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Seniors Matt D’Aversa (13) and Jack Molesky combined for 20 points.

“We left it all on the floor,” Vikings head coach Harrison Ryan Berglin said. “Our effort was there the entire 32 minutes. The kids played their hearts out. In the end, Friends just made a few more baskets than we did.”

The largest lead for either team from tipoff until the final minute was five. North Shore led 22-17 late in the second quarter and 32-27 midway through the third after taking a three-point lead into the lockers at intermission.

Friends got two points apiece from Valdez, McKenzie and Kramer, and a trey from O’Brien to surge to a 36-33 lead after three quarters. The Vikings got within one early in the fourth but never closer as a pair of senior Myles Morris baskets and a dagger trey from Kramer staved them off.

“We got back to how we’re capable of playing offensively in the second half,” Johnsen said.

In the semifinals at Farmingdale State Feb. 28, Triantafyllou delivered 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and North Shore pulled away late for a 47-39 win over No. 6 Cold Spring Harbor.

The Seahawks led by as many as six twice in the first half, but North Shore controlled the lead for much of the second half. Nate Grossman nailed consecutive threes to give Cold Spring Harbor a 36-35 edge with 4:49 left in regulation. Triantafyllou answered with a layup to give the Vikings a one-point lead and followed with a trey. But Cole Newman cut the margin down to one with a three. It was 40-39 with 2:59 left.

Junior Lucas Schimsky, who had 13 points, hit a jumper for a three-point lead and junior Damon Merazzi followed with another to bring the North Shore side of the stands to a roar. Triantafyllou sank two free throws with 24 seconds to go to seal the outcome.

Friends Academy advanced to the title game after snapping No. 5 Floral Park’s 10-game winning streak in the earlier semifinal, squeaking out a 55-52 victory behind Valadez’s 22 points, including seven in the fourth quarter.

That game was tied at 50 when Valadez assisted on O’Brien’s basket with under a minute remaining. After Valdez and Floral Park’s Jim Driscoll traded field goals, an O’Brien free throw with 13.4 seconds left made it 55-52 and the Knights missed a three-point attempt just before the horn to force overtime.