Clutch free throws carry Jets


Clutch free-throw shooting by senior point guard Cody Zafran and junior forward Joe Forrier — the two combined to convert 10 of 11 attempts in the fourth quarter — led East Meadow to an improbable come-from-behind 49-44 victory at Hicksville last Saturday in a Conference AA-II boys’ basketball game.

The Comets scored the first 18 points of the game and led by a dozen at halftime, but the Jets (5-5 overall, 3-3 in conference play) chipped away by getting to the basket and taking advantage of getting fouled converting 23 of 31 attempts at the free-throw line.

“[Hicksville] shot well, defended well and we couldn’t hit a shot,” East Meadow head coach Barry Dickson said of the slow start. “But give [the Comets] credit. They played well. Today was a character win for us. Coming back from 18 down for any high school team [is tough].

“It’s important to be able to win when we are not shooting the ball well.”

Zafran scored a team-high 16 points, including 11 from the line, with Forrier (13 points) and senior guard Damien Sanders (10) also hitting double figures, though Sanders, a key component on the defensive end of the floor, was lost for a few games due to an injury suffered in the win.

While senior Brandon Callaghan normally draws the assignment of covering an opponent’s top scorer, Sanders normally mans up against the top opposing guard. “It’s a bad time to lose him,” Dickson said, noting an upcoming schedule that includes games with first-place Baldwin and second-place Valley Stream Central. 

East Meadow picked up its first win of the new year on Jan. 7, knocking off Plainview, 71-57. Zafran scored a game-high 25 points and was one of four on the Jets to score at least 10 points. Callaghan (16 points), Forrier (10), and Sanders (10) also hit double digits, and the four combined to convert 24 free throws. “We have three guards that can create,” Dickson said, noting the team’s emphasis on being aggressive, getting to the basket and drawing foul calls. 

Callaghan helped the Jets jump out to an eight-point lead at halftime by scoring 10 of his team’s 33 points, and they pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hawks, 22-14.

Already at the midpoint of the Conference AA-II schedule, East Meadow’s just a few bounces away from playing several games over .500. In four of the losses, it held a lead in the second half, and in the fifth, against the still unbeaten Bruins on Dec. 17, the Jets chopped a double-digit deficit down to five points three different times on the fourth quarter before falling, 66-56. Zafran had a team-high 16 points in the loss with 10 of them coming from the line.

East Meadow kicks off the second half of the conference slate at Baldwin for a rematch on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.