Was it the three-pointer from the corner, the alley-oop dunk or the blocked shot? What exactly was it that woke up host Northport and a capacity crowd of nearly 1,200 fans?
"It was everything. We needed a wake-up call. We needed a spark, and we got it," said Mike Milligan, who nailed a key three during a 15-0 run that sent the Tigers to a 52-39 victory over Whitman Friday night in a Suffolk League II game that was part of a Coaches vs. Cancer event.
Milligan and Luke Petrasek scored 13 points each as Northport improved to 9-0 (3-0 in league play) and remained the only unbeaten boys basketball team on Long Island. "Everybody in the school knows about the team now. It's fun," said Petrasek, a 6-9 senior center whose eight blocked shots took the inside game away from the Wildcats (5-2, 2-1).
Petrasek knows his defense is crucial to his team's success, but he couldn't deny the sheer joy of taking a clever lob from Austin Marchese for a crowd-pleasing slam that gave the Tigers a 37-26 lead with 2:30 left in the third.
"I love getting blocks, but I think a play like that gets the team going and definitely gets the crowd going," Petrasek said.
Point guard Matt Smith contributed consecutive threes and Milligan finished the spurt with a slashing reverse layup that made it 39-26. Whitman had overcome a 20-8 first-half deficit to go ahead 26-24 on a floater in the lane by Kieran Elmore (10 points), the Wildcats' first lead since the game's opening possession.
"There was no panic," Milligan said. "We know we're good enough to take the lead back. We have a lot of interchangeable parts. We mix it up and it's hard to stop us."
First-year coach Andrew D'Eloia said defense was the key to Northport's second half. "We had a talk about that at halftime," he said. "We didn't have the defensive intensity and we left some shooters open. Our philosophy in the second half was everyone is responsible for his man or they're coming out of the game."
A spark was lit and no one had to sit.