Baldwin gains steam down stretch


If there’s a keyword that’s starting to define Baldwin on the hardwood this season, it’s balance. On offense, three players hit double figures in a 76-33 victory over East Meadow last Saturday, while the Jets were the second consecutive team the Bruins (10-2 overall, 7-1 in Conference AA-II) held below 35 points.

“We’re playing good ball right now,” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said. “We changed our press up to adjust to our personnel. We’re catching people off guard because they know what we normally do.”

East Meadow was held to seven points in the first quarter and just five in the third, and guard Cody Zafran, who scored a game-high 24 points in the first meeting back in December, was limited to just six in the rematch. “We wore them down with defense,” Burton said. “We got some big pressure on the ball and everyone helped and communicated.”

The aggressive defensive effort was fueled in part by senior Eric Mack, whose first season in the Bruins program has already been record-breaking. Mack scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it’s his eight blocks that jump off the stat sheet, much like he does the court. Through a dozen games, Mack has already blocked 69 shots—shattering the previous team record of 58—and averages a healthy 12 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“He’s a difference-maker,” Burton said, noting that it’s not just the blocked shots, but how Mack blocks them. “He’s blocking shots but keeping them inbounds. He trails people, he’s blocking his man, he’s blocking on 2-on-1 fast breaks.

“We can extend our pressure, get up more and take chances more.”

Senior Elijah MacMillan scored a game-high 12 points, while senior point guard Travais Hylton scored 11. Junior Jordan Williams turned in a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bruins stretched their winning streak to four games in advance of a crucial Conference AA-II battle with Hicksville earlier this week. The two sat atop the conference with identical 7-1 marks, and the Comets won the first meeting, 65-55, on Dec. 20, draining a dozen threes, including six from Michael Julka. The loss snapped Baldwin’s 36-game conference winning streak that dated back to 2010. “We didn’t make the shots against their zone,” Burton said. “They played better than us.”

Hylton scored 20 points in a 53-32 victory over Longwood, a perennial power in Suffolk County, in the Martin Luther King Jr., Nassau-Suffolk Challenge at the Hicksville PAL Complex on Jan. 20. The Bruins defense limited the Lions to single-digit point totals in three of the four quarters, and held Longwood’s top offensive weapon, guard Latrell Washington, to just one basket. “It was great the way we came out,” Burton said. “They are one of the teams to beat out in Suffolk.”

Hylton captured the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award, while Mack scored six points to go along with five assists and 10 rebounds.

“We knew we had a lot of talent but we knew it would take some time,” Burton said of having just one returning player with varsity experience. “But the kids have bought in and believe what it takes to be successful.”