East Meadow boys’ basketball notched its first conference win last Saturday, a hard-fought contest in which the Jets overcame a slow start to top previously undefeated Hicksville on the road, 60-53.
After dropping their first two conference games to Westbury and Baldwin, the Jets went into Saturday’s game knowing it would be a good opportunity to jumpstart their season. It didn’t start out as hoped, with Hicksville fending off the Jets’ “pack-line” defense – a strategy that forces the opposition to take long-distance shots – by knocking down four early three-pointers. Trailing 16-5, the Jets tightened their perimeter pressure and the game changed from there. “We did a nice job in transition,” said coach Bobby Kopp. “We held them in half court pretty well.”
The Jets outscored Hicksville in the final three quarters to earn the hard-fought victory, moving to 1-2 in conference play and handing Hicksville its first conference loss. Seniors Harry Nicholson and Sultan Mirza led the way for the Jets with 25 and 22 points, respectively. “It was a good win for us,” said Kopp. “I really love where our team is at. We’re working hard.”
Though the Jets have played only three conference games, their season began back on Nov. 30, having already logged seven non-conference games. Kopp said he purposefully booked a highly competitive non-conference schedule to fully prepare his team for what lie ahead. It began on a rough note, with a bruising opening day loss on the road at Roslyn, losing by one point on a buzzer-beating contested three-pointer. After the Friday night game, Kopp said he told his players to take the weekend off and come back ready on Monday.
“That was one of the toughest losses I’ve ever dealt with,” he said. “I felt so bad for the kids.”
They went 3-4 in non-conference play, though Kopp noted they played well enough in two of the losses that they could have went 5-2. And now with their first conference victory under their belt, the coach said that with a bit of work ahead improving their half-court offense, his team has its eye on maintaining the momentum all the way to the playoffs.
Murza, a co-captain and returning All-County player, does most of the team’s scoring along with Nicholson. Both share the ball at point guard and average around 20 points per game. On the defensive end, senior Jihad Prunty, at 6-foot-5, is a true shot blocker, and averages double-digit rebounds per game. “He’s improved immensely,” Kopp said of Prunty. “He does a great job manning the middle for us.”
The Jets’ next game, at home against Long Beach on Wednesday, after perss time, will be a big one as they aim to get back to .500. After that, they turn around three days later to face Plainview.
“If we can take care of business on Wednesday, I think we’ll be in good shape,” said the coach. “These kids are awesome. If we stay healthy and play the right way, I think we’re a playoff team.”