After avenging last year's loss to Hofstra, Steve Pikiell praised winning effort, but was more grateful just to play Stony Brook's Long Island rival. (Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Post)
STONY BROOK, NY -- The moods of each locker room covered each end of the proverbial spectrum. For Joe Mihalich and Hofstra, it was a feeling of letting one get away after the Pride put up a stellar defensive effort only to see Stony Brook score 30 points in the final 11 minutes. In the camp of the home team, Jameel Warney was proud of the fact that his Seawolves earned the right to claim that they were the top team on Long Island, at least this season.
Somewhere in the middle, unsurprisingly, was Steve Pikiell.
Pikiell has always been a humble and gracious coach in both victory and defeat, handling the latter with a far greater aplomb than anyone could fathom. Therefore, it came as no surprise that he was noncommittal in offering one-sided emotion in the wake of Stony Brook's 73-68 victory at Island Federal Credit Union Arena, atoning for last year's last-second loss to their brethren from Nassau County.
"Just a great environment," Pikiell addressed with regard to the home crowd as he began his postgame press conference. "Great game, I thought last year was a great game, this year was a great game. I'm glad we resumed the series."
For a while, it did not seem as though things would go Stony Brook's way, especially after a 12-for-19 free throw shooting exhibit that probably would have left Pikiell wanting more if his team had come up short in a similar vein to how they have in America East tournaments of recent past. But for every Hofstra punch to the jaw, the Seawolves responded. A timely three-pointer or bucket for Warney in the paint ensured that Hofstra would not drive away, taking the hypothetical title of "Long Island's best" with them down the Long Island Expressway back into Hempstead.
"They're really good," said Pikiell of his opponent, who forced the Seawolves to dig in if they wanted to win on this day, in an affair that neither side led by more than seven points. "I just thought it was a great game. I'm glad our athletic directors got this series back. It's good for Long Island basketball. They're a good program, they've got a lot of weapons, Coach (Joe) Mihalich does a great job."
The series remains active now, something that both coaches have clamored for as they attempt to get reacquainted with other local schools in the metropolitan area, which Pikiell has long been a proponent of. However, he attested to its difficulty in getting games to take place.
"I think we would all like to, I would love to play more schools," he admitted. "But Coach Mihalich has a hard time scheduling, (and) we do too. The person on the other line's got to say yes, so you could make as many calls as you want, it's sometimes difficult. I'm just thankful. I think this is a good series, and I really do believe it helps college, but it helps high school basketball too."