East Meadow rallies into top spot


After a 72-60 win last Friday over Great Neck South, declaring the East Meadow boys’ basketball (9-3 overall) team sole possession of the top spot in Conference AA-3 with its 6-0 record, you’d think the Jets would kick back, relax and celebrate, right?

Head coach Tom Rottkamp begs to differ for a few reasons; the first thing he said about the team’s win was that it didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, resulting in a five-point deficit at intermission.

But that didn’t break the team’s spirit. Juniors Mazin Ibrahem and Isaiah Perkins combined for five threes in the third quarter, refusing to let the team go down without a fight. The two ended the night with 22 and 18 points respectively, with junior Will Casseus as the third man in double-digit scoring with 15 points. Fellow juniors Nick DeStefano and Izaiah Richards contributed 9 and 8 points respectively.

“[The guys] enjoy the [heavy competition],” Rottkamp said. “They’re confident players and they like playing against good teams.”

Going up against heavy competition runs in the Jets’ nature: they opened their season by playing teams in the class above them, no matter how ugly it got.

“[The season] started out with two losses, what we call growing pain losses, but again, we challenged ourselves; we played Syosset and Port Washington, two very good teams. We think it’s paying dividends now,” Rottkamp said.

Those dividends are straightforward: “we learned that games are 32 minutes long and that you have to play well all 32 minutes to beat good opponents,” he added.

On top of that, each of the starting five puts in a dozen points a game, making for a “balanced scoring attack” as Rottkamp put it, creating a distinct aspect to this year’s team.

“That’s player driven,” Rottkamp explained. “If you have five guys scoring 12 [points] a game, that’s just unique to this team. In years past it might have been one guy scoring 20 a game but not this year.”

The second reason why Rottkamp isn’t letting his (or his team’s) foot off the gas just yet; he knows that there’s a long road ahead, admitting that despite the clutch win last Friday night, it doesn’t get any easier in what many consider to be the toughest conference in the AA’s in Nassau.

“We have to play [Great Neck South] again; we have to play Jericho twice, Jericho is also 6-1,” Rottkamp said. “It’s a great conference and Valley Stream Central is also a very good team.”

Part of making sure that the team is looking pristine is the defensive side of the ball.

“You have to keep improving defensively throughout the season,” Rottkamp reasoned. “We certainly improved there after the first two games, but it’s an ongoing process that takes a lot of energy, determination and work to get better at trapping, rotating and guarding in man.”

For Rottkamp and his players, the goal is clear: bring home the conference title. It’s a difficult journey up ahead.

“It’ll be a dogfight to see who wins the conference,” Rottkamp admitted.

The Jets have also defeated Valley Stream Central, MacArthur, Mepham, Long Beach and Herricks in conference play.