Some two-point baskets are worth a lot more than that, especially after you add the exclamation points.
That was the case early in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, when Northport's Luke Petrasek took a smart dump-down pass from Matt Smith and threw down a two-handed dunk. It increased the Tigers' advantage over Deer Park to only three points, but from the way the bench and the crowd of more than 2,000 at Longwood High School reacted, that was no ordinary jam.
"Every time I dunk, the crowd goes crazy," Petrasek said after he gave Northport Nation plenty to celebrate. The 6-9 senior had 30 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked four shots and influenced many others as Northport defeated Deer Park, 65-57, to win the Suffolk AA (Large School) championship for the first time since 1995.
Smith, a senior point guard, contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. "He's our spark plug," Northport first-year coach Andrew D'Eloia said. "It was all about senior leadership . . . and Luke Petrasek. It was his turn tonight."
Petrasek had only one field goal and six points in the Tigers' 51-47 victory over Longwood in the semifinals, and he was determined not to be so easily contained Tuesday night. "I definitely wanted to come out early and establish my offense,' he said.
He did precisely that, scoring nine points in the first quarter, including a flip-in off an inbounds lob from Smith that beat the buzzer and provided a 13-9 lead. Aaren Edmead scored seven of his 20 points in the second quarter as Deer Park (17-5) closed the deficit to 31-29 at halftime.
"We were a lot more aggressive right from the beginning," Petrasek said. "Our transition defense was good and we weren't worried when they took the lead."
The Falcons forged ahead 42-37 with 2:15 left in the third. But Northport (21-1) scored the last six points of the quarter and went ahead to stay at 43-42 on Petrasek's long three-pointer with 46 seconds left.
After the Petrasek dunk, Mike Milligan took a feed from Smith, drove baseline, scored, drew the foul and converted. While the Northport half of the gym was still screaming, Smith sank a three from the wing for a 51-44 lead. Smith also sliced through the middle for a layup that made it 55-48. Edmead answered with two free throws, but the Falcons got no closer.
The Tigers scored their final 10 points from the foul line, four by Smith and three by Petrasek. They advanced to Friday's Suffolk overall championship against Amityville at Ward Melville and into the Long Island championship game against the Nassau AA winner at Hofstra on March 9.
"Luke was phenomenal,'' D'Eloia said. "He will be a Division I college player next year. Some school will be very lucky to get him."
Petrasek was feeling more than lucky. "This feels amazing!" he said with an exclamation point that was the perfect punctuation mark for the game.