Playing for the first time in more than a week and coming off its only loss following 11 straight victories out of the gate, Baldwin exploded for 21 points in each of the first two quarters last Saturday on the way to a 73-59 win at Westbury in a Nassau Conference AA-II boys’ basketball game.
Senior Tavin Pierre-Philippe scored a game-high 24 points and senior Rhyjon Blackwell got back on track with a 17-point effort as the Bruins maintained their stronghold on the conference top spot by improving to 7-1 while putting the Green Dragons (3-6) on a slippery slope for the playoffs.
Quram Vineyard had 22 points and Jordan Reed added 18 for Westbury, which fell by 32 points at Baldwin in the first meeting back on Dec. 20.
“We knew they were going to give us a tougher game and that’s why it was so important to start strong,” Baldwin head coach Darius Burton said. “We pressed right away and utilized our depth. It’s something we stressed from the beginning.
“It was a long eight days between games, but we put in some good practices and worked on our half-court sets,” he added. “We held three straight opponents to under 40 points, so our defense has been great.”
The Bruins, who were held to not only a season-low but its lowest offensive output in about five years in a 37-36 defeat to Port Washington at home on Jan. 18, led Westbury 42-23 at halftime. “We were able to force a lot of turnovers and get some easy baskets,” Burton said. “Westbury is a dangerous and talented team that likes to get into transition, but we’re a tough team to push the ball against.”
Pierre-Philippe, who added eight rebounds, hit for his scoring average on the season. His 24.1 points per game ranks him among the top three scorers in the county. “He’s a natural scorer and he does a great job getting to the line,” Burton said.
Blackwell, who was held to six points in the loss to Port, boosted his average back to up 15.4 ppg and also dished out five assists. Senior center Tre Riggins had 12 points, and juniors Kamani Jones and Isaiah Walker added eight and six, respectively.
“We’re happy to bounce back,” Burton explained. “You never know how a team is going to react to a bad loss. We were in disbelief and shock. It was one of those nights where we just couldn’t get any shots to fall. It’s better now than later.”
If Baldwin can hold on and capture the AA-II title, it’ll likely get the No. 2 seed in the playoffs behind defending county champion Uniondale. The Bruins are also hoping to be healthy in February after starters Riggins (fractured ankle) and senior guard Dwight Levy (sprained ankle) and key reserve Peter Bateman (knee) hardly saw the court in January. Fortunately, Burton said, senior Eric Manigault and junior Jayden Mckenzie led a contingency that stepped up to provide quality minutes.