Oceanside made the most of a full week’s preparation for Uniondale, beating the Nassau County boys’ basketball perennial powerhouse for the first time in head coach Dan Keegan’s 11-year tenure, 60-58, to even its Conference AA-I record at 1-1.
Senior Hunter Sabety (25 points), junior Casey Kelly (17) and senior Jonah Kaplan (13) all scored in double figures for the host Sailors, who kept the tempo at their desired pace and limited turnovers.
“It’s a really big win for the program,” Keegan said. “The kids know what they accomplished and celebrated, but at the same they didn’t overreact because they know there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.”
Oceanside hadn’t beaten Uniondale in about 25 years, according to Keegan. The Knights, winners of seven county championships since the 2001-02 campaign, were led by Aaron Cust’s 20 points. “Their defense triggers their offense, and we were particularly conscious of their fast break,” Keegan said. “We were grinding the whole game and didn’t allow them any big runs.”
Oceanside did a tremendous job handing Uniondale’s signature defensive pressure, Keegan said, thanks to Kelly’s work at point guard and Sabety’s 6-foot-8 frame in the middle. “Casey did a great job handling the ball, and we used Hunter as pressure relief at the high point,” Keegan explained. “Having a full week to prepare for what Uniondale likes to do was a big help.”
The Sailors led after each quarter. They took a 44-41 lead into the fourth and built a 10-point advantage before Cust and Imran Ritchie knocked down some treys to make it interesting. Sabety, who grabbed 15 rebounds, went 4-for-4 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the outcome. Kaplan added seven rebounds and Kelly had eight assists.
“We did a lot of little things well,” Keegan said. “We had to inbound the ball many times under our own basket, and we didn’t turn it over.”
The upset victory also allowed Oceanside (5-3 overall after beating Syosset on Jan. 3) to avoid back-to-back defeats to open the conference schedule. Hot-shooting Massapequa won the conference opener, 67-62, despite Sabety’s game-high 29 points. “They were on fire in the first half and it took us too long to get going,” Keegan said.
There was no hangover from the Uniondale win as the Sailors beat visiting Long Beach, 59-52, in non-conference action on Dec. 29. Sabety (16 points, 13 rebounds), junior Tim Nolan (15 points) and Kaplan (14 points) led a balanced attack. “I’m thrilled we had three players in double figures in two straight games,” Keegan said. “If we can keep that kind of stuff going, we’ll win our share.”
Nolan, a shooting guard, has been torrid from three-point land, hitting nearly half of his long-range attempts, while senior forward Brian Lau has provided steady contributions under the boards and chipping in five points per game. Junior Ryan Hertling brings intensity off the bench.
“We’ve done some nice things so far,” Keegan said.