After defeating Plainview-JFK last Saturday, East Meadow is positioned to make a strong push for the Nassau Class AA boys’ basketball playoffs after a 3-16 campaign last season.
Senior shooting guard Tyshyne Johnson had a game-high 15 points to lead his team over the Hawks and to a 4-4 record in Conference AA2. The 6-9 Jets must at least maintain their .500 in-league standing to qualify for the postseason.
East Meadow’s regular season wraps up with games against conference rivals Port Washington, Herricks, Baldwin and Hicksville, teams they went 2-2 against earlier this season. The Jets came back from a five-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to defeat Plainview-JFK, 48-44, when they met in East Meadow on Jan. 10. They also dominated Herricks, 72-45, on Jan. 9, and edged Hicksville, 50-49, Jan. 15
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to beat Herricks and Hicksville again, but at least we know that we’ve beaten them,” head coach Bobby Kopp said.
Kopp called the win over Herricks his team’s best game of the season, as the Jets tallied their highest point total of their season. Junior guard-forward Sultan Mizra led the Jets with 26 points.
The team’s top offensive player, Mizra has upped his scoring average from last season by four points to 18.5 per game. The unorthodox scorer makes many shots from the four-foot to 10-foot ranges.
“Sultan has been hitting some three-pointers, too, which is cool for him,” Kopp added.
Mizra is the lone returning starter, while the team’s other starters either logged few or no minutes coming off the bench last season. The Jets got off to a rocky start this season, losing consecutive games to Bethpage, Long Beach, Roslyn and Calhoun.
“Early on, we were struggling with how to win,” said Kopp, now in his second season as the team’s coach.
Kopp believes his team started to win once his players adapted better to his up-tempo motion offensive and high-pressure man-to-man defensive schemes.
While the offense revolves around Mizra, 6-foot-5 senior center Jake Buchar has developed into the team’s best defensive player and rebounder, after an injury sidelined him for part of last season.
“He does a really good job of altering shots,” Kopp said of Buchar.
Senior forward Pat Hoffman wasn’t expected to produce much this season after breaking his leg playing football last fall. But he has demonstrated the most growth on the team, according to Kopp. The coach calls him the team’s glue man, guarding and rebounding against opponents’ toughest players. He shined in a 74-58 loss at Westbury on Dec. 19.
“He’s been absolutely huge for us,” Kopp said of Hoffman.
Meanwhile, Johnson has stepped up to fill some of the scoring voids this season, and senior guard Mike Halikikas has developed into a leader on the court. And a trio of junior backups have made important contributions: Chris Forrler is tough and scrappy, 6-foot-4 Jihad Prunty is a proven shot blocker who has sharpened his shooting, and Dean Lanza is athletic and skilled on the offensive boards.