The game is publicized as a path for better relations between young people and the police, however a dynasty is in the making as for the third consecutive year Lawrence High School students defeated the 4th Precinct police officers.
In the May 22 game at the Cedarhurst school, students claimed a 57-52 victory. The game consisted of four, eight-minute quarters as each team had roughly 15 players. Lawrence junior varsity basketball coach Jason Supple has coached the students all three years. “Jason’s going to ask for a raise if the students win again,” Lawrence Athletic Director Michael Gordon said jokingly before the game. The police team did not have an official coach.
Lawrence Board of Education Trustee Heshy Blachorsky originated the idea for this yearly game. “With events in recent years of police brutality, there’s unfortunately been a negative narrative attached to police officers,” he said. “It’s always a positive when there’s an opportunity to break this narrative and I think this game serves as a positive example.”
Fourth Precinct officer John Zanni said that he immediately liked the idea when Blachorsky pitched it to him and the police department. “He called me to talk about a potential game and we put it together quickly from there,” Zanni said. “This is a great way for us to keep in touch with the community and get to know everybody.” The precinct has gone winless so far in the game, but Zanni recalled that they came close in one of the first two games. “The first year, we took the students to overtime,” he said. “The second year, they blew us out.”
Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said that she when she first learned about the game, she could not gauge its impact. “To me, this game initially seemed like a lovely idea, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect of it,” she said. “But now it has become an event that everybody looks forward to. When I see the officers and students shake hands at the end of the game, it’s always one of those moments that gets me emotional.”
The students jumped off to a fast start and built a 35-17 halftime lead. The police hung tough throughout the second half to cut the deficit to 42-39 by the end of the third quarter. Former community affairs police officer Adelunle Akingb used his strength and size to lead the rally.
Despite the close score, the students never lost their confidence. “They actually thought they had a shot against us?” Lawrence High student Nathaniel Manning said after his team hit a three-pointer to go up by four late in the game.
Pedersen is appreciative of the efforts the police from the 4th Precinct makes to be involved in the community. “The precinct is remarkable, officer Zanni is always supportive of us,” she said. “I don’t think there are any other communities in Nassau County where a personal connection between the police and the residents exists like it does here.”