South Side drops state semifinal


South Side’s amazing boys’ basketball season, buoyed by a 24-game winning streak and the program’s first Long Island championship in 45 years, came to a rough end Friday night at Cool Insuring Arena in Albany.

The Cyclones were unable to overcome poor shooting and uncharacteristic turnovers and fell to Irondequoit (Section V), 50-29, in a New York State Class A semifinal they led by a basket at halftime. 

South Side, which hadn’t lost in nearly 100 days, managed just eight points in the second half on 3-for-16 shooting as Ryan Heath carried the Eagles to a 31-point effort over the final 16 minutes. Heath poured in 18 of his game-high 19 points in the second half as Irondequoit advanced to face Tappen Zee in the state title game.

Senior Josh Garelle and junior Patrick Mullin had nine points apiece, and senior James Murphy added eight for the Cyclones, who suffered their only other defeat this winter in the opener against eventual Nassau Class AA runner-up Port Washington.

“Irondequoit is a very good team that kept us off the boards and we missed a lot of shots,” South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo said. “I liked the way we defended in the first half, but we couldn’t have had a worse offensive half than we did in the second.”

Despite committing nine of their 16 turnovers in the first half, the Cyclones shot (8 of 15) and defended well. The game was tied at nine after the opening quarter and South Side clung to a 21-19 halftime lead before Heath and Xavier Gissendanner took over in the second half.

Heath opened the third quarter with a game-tying basket and Gissendanner followed with a three-pointer and a dunk for a 26-21 lead. Mullin answered with a trey which would stand as the Cyclones’ only points of the quarter. Heath then scored the next dozen points of the game — the last eight of the third and first two baskets of the fourth.

“We did a great job on Heath in the first half,” D’Angelo said. “He’s their best player and really came alive in the second half.”

Mullin hit another three-pointer to stop the bleeding momentarily. Irondequoit followed with an eight-point run to lead 44-27 with 3:46 left.

South Side was coming off its first L.I. title game victory since the 1977-78 campaign. It defeated Kings Park, 45-31, March 11 at Stony Brook University behind 14 points apiece from Garelle and senior Robert Pericolosi, and eight from senior James Bivona.

The Cyclones knocked off defending state champion Manhasset, 57-46, for the Nassau Class A crown March 4 at Hofstra University. Garelle (16), Bivona (13) and Pericolosi (11) all scored in double figures.

“We had a very special season led by our seniors,” D’Angelo said. “To win 24 games in a row with a tough non-league schedule and beat the defending state champs in the county final speaks for itself.”