Football players brought a dynamic to Babylon hoops
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- How do you turn a football school into a basketball school? With help from the football players, of course.
While playing in the state championship game Saturday night, the Babylon boys basketball team was concluding its best season in program history. Jake Carlock and six of his teammates joined an exclusive club of athletes who have won Long Island championships in football and basketball during the same year.
Just three months after helping Babylon's football team cruise to a 48-18 win over Roosevelt in the Long Island Class IV championship game, Carlock scored 11 points in a 56-55 win over Wheatley in the Long Island Class B basketball title game.
His primary responsibility on the court comes on the defensive end, which is no surprise considering he is a first-team All-Long Island cornerback on the football field, having recorded nine interceptions last season.
Call him Carlockdown.
"He's our main defensive player on the court," said Babylon basketball coach Chris Morra, who is the defensive coordinator on the football team. "We put him on the best offensive player on the other team."
Before this season, the Babylon football team had captured 10 county titles during the basketball team's 26-year county title drought. After the basketball team's first game of the season, a 64-50 loss to North Babylon on Dec. 4, it looked as though that trend would continue.
"Our first game, I remember we lost by 14," guard Fernando Vazquez said Friday night after scoring 40 points to lead Babylon to a 67-57 win over Syracuse Westhill that put the Panthers in the state Class B championship game. "The football guys were just coming back from the Long Island championship. I knew we could do this."
Those football guys -- Ray Wardell, Alec Zamet, Kevin Smith, Andrew Watson, Jeann Cruz and Stephen Schweitzer -- got used to wearing shorts and a shirt instead of pads and a helmet. The team jelled and Babylon won 22 of its next 24 games, bringing the Panthers within one win of the program's first state championship Saturday night.
Like Carlock, Wardell and Zamet start for both teams. Wardell is a 6-5 forward (and wide receiver) who can rebound and knock down the mid-range jumper. Zamet is a 6-foot shooting guard (and defensive back) who is a solid defender and handles all in-bounds passes. But they bring more than just fundamentals.
"They carry that mentality," Morra said. "Just the work ethic. I was with them all summer training. I coached them in the fall and then right into the winter. So we know each other real well. We mesh real well and it's been a good transition."
So while Babylon likely always will be a football school, the basketball program has made a name for itself this season . . . with the help of some football players, of course.
"This team," Morra said, "has brought a whole new excitement to the village."