Growing up in Lindenhurst on Long Island, it was a ritual for Marlboro coach Mike Koehler.
He would get on his bike and cruise over to the next town over, Babylon, to play basketball at a park. All these years later, Marlboro takes on Babylon in the quarterfinals of the Class B state tournament at noon Saturday at SUNY Old Westbury – located only 30 minutes from where Koehler developed his game.
“I’m looking forward to it, getting to this stage and playing in front of my family,” said Koehler, 33, the youngest of six siblings. Most of his family still lives on Long Island. “It’s going to be a great experience. They really don’t get a chance to see the team play much.”
The Marlboro (15-5)-Babylon winner moves on to play Norwich or Syracuse-Westhill in the Class B state semifinals at 6:45 p.m. March 15 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Marlboro and Babylon, making its first appearance in the state tournament, both pulled off dramatic wins in the first round. Trailing by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, Marlboro beat Our Lady of Lourdes 46-44 on Tuesday. Babylon edged Wheatley 56-55 on a driving layup with 5.3 seconds left by Fernando Vazquez.
Vazquez, a guard, leads Babylon (20-3) in scoring with 21 points per game and Jake Carlock, a 6-foot-2 forward, is averaging 11. Babylon coach Chris Morra, in his third season, said the team has a balanced scoring attack. A pair of 6-5 players, Brendan Laing and Ray Wardell, also contribute.
“We know Marlboro is a good team, but we will be prepared,” Morra said. “I don’t know much about them, but I working on that on the Internet.”
Before Lourdes, Marlboro outlasted Spackenkill 58-53 in the Section 9 Class B championship. Koehler expects another close game against Babylon.
“I think we match up well against them, but it will be more of the same,” Koehler said. “You have to be very good to be playing at this point of the season. It’s just more of the same. It’s going to be hard and I think they key will be our defense.”