It is not often that a No. 16 seed in the playoffs knocks off a No. 1 seed. When Floral Park pulled off the improbable upset of Southside, they made people take notice.
“That created a buzz for the program,” said first-year Head Coach Sean Boyle. “It might make kids venture into trying out next year. The returning guys now know what’s expected of them. It will make it easier to get the message across,” he added.
Virtually nobody expected them to pull off such an upset. Certainly not Southside. Boyle believes that may have contributed to the victory.
“I knew that the first four minutes would be crucial,” he said. “They were going to treat us like a No. 16 seed. Once we got off to a good start, I knew it would be a close game,” he added.
In front of 2,000 spectators, they pulled off the improbable. Senior Kevin Cluess led the way with a game-high 41 points and seven rebounds. He also scored the game-winning basket in the game’s final minute as well as preserved the victory with a block in the final second.
That victory was not the end of the road for the Cinderella story. They followed it up with a 79-68 victory over No. 9 Manhasset the next week.
“We knew that they had two bigs—Keyshawn Johnson and Joe Enea,” he said. “Keyshawn was more of the shot blocker and rebounder while Enea was the scorer. We had to keep one—sometimes two—guys in their area at all times. Our kids really bought into the game plan,” he added.
Most impressively, Floral Park transformed into an elite offensive team in the postseason after averaging only 53 points per game during the 17-game regular season.
“It was a total contribution—in one game we had four different players score 10-plus points in one quarter,” he said in regards to their unbelievable achievement.
They followed up that victory with another upset—this time over No. 12 Carey. Coach Boyle happened to coach there for nine seasons prior to his tenure with Floral Park.
That game was a much lower scoring game, but it showed that they could win either a shootout or a defensive struggle.
“I told the guys from the beginning ‘why not us?’ Let’s shock the world,” he added.
The run ultimately ended in the Class A Championship against Valley Stream South 49-43. They played tough, but it was not enough.
Nevertheless, it was a tremendous season for Floral Park. They finished with a 15-8 record. Boyle noted that the team with miss their six graduating seniors—Cluess, Jimmy Guerriero, Nick Jounakos and Matt Kelly.
As is always the case in high school, graduating seniors allow for the next wave of talented players. Next year will be another opportunity to “shock the world” in the words of Coach Boyle.