Teams on opposite ends of the Conference A-I boys’ basketball totem pole met last Saturday and the result wasn’t pretty for the home team.
Visiting South Side had 13 players reach the scoresheet, including three in double figures, and opened a 16-point lead after the opening quarter on the way to cruising past winless New Hyde Park, 66-32, for its 11th straight conference victory without a loss.
Sophomore Alex Sorensen (11), junior Garrett Gallego (11) and senior Erik Shirland (10) led the Cyclones and combined for as many points as the Gladiators. Senior Pace Shaw added eight points, and senior Keith Phifer, junior Tim Kelly, junior Jon Cheslock, and sophomore Tim Awosika chipped in four points apiece.
“Depth has been our calling card all season,” South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo said after his team improved to 12-1 overall and maintained a one-game lead over Westbury in the race for the conference title. “We tend to have strong third quarters because our starters get four- or five-minute breaks in the first half,” he added. “We’ve had a bunch of games where someone came off the bench and led us in scoring.”
Last Friday, the Cyclones competed a season sweep of defending Nassau Class A champion Jericho, 72-42, behind double-doubles from senior Paul Pandolfi (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Sorensen (12, 12), and a dozen points from Gallego. Senior point guard Keith Ruiz added eight points.
“We have so many potential weapons, it makes us hard to stop,” D’Angelo said. “We’ve been playing pretty good basketball, but there are some little things we can do better. We have room to improve our defense, rebounding and offensive execution.”
During its eight-game winning streak dating back to Jan. 7, South Side hasn’t allowed more than 50 points and a different player led it in the scoring column on five occasions. Sorensen hit for a team season-high 28 and added 13 rebounds in a 60-50 victory over Carey on Jan. 17. It was a one-point game with six minutes to go when Shaw drained treys on consecutive possessions to give the Cyclones breathing room.
After a busy week that includes games against playoff hopefuls Wantagh and Garden City, as well as a non-conference matchup with Mount Saint Michaels (Bronx) this Saturday at 4 p.m. at Uniondale High School, the race for the A-I title may come down to next Monday’s home game against Westbury.
“If we continue to win and Westbury continues to win, we’re looking at that last game determining whether we’re conference champs or co-conference champs,” D’Angelo said.
The Class A playoffs are scheduled to open Feb. 13, and D’Angelo believes the race for the title is wide-open. In addition to the Cyclones, Valley Stream South, Lawrence, West Hempstead, and Westbury are either undefeated or have just one conference loss heading into this week’s action. “In my opinion, there are six or seven teams that can realistically win the county championship,” he said.