With just one senior, an all-junior starting five and a rugged Conference A2, it would have been unsurprising if the Sewanhaka boys’ basketball team’s streak of eight straight playoff berths came to an end.
It didn’t happen. With two games left, the Indians, who graduated nine players off last season’s roster, have already clinched a playoff berth, led by top scorers Dylan McLennon and Jordan Tucker and leadership of power forward Elliott LaMotte.
After Sewanhaka defeated New Hyde Park, 64-56, last Friday behind McLennon’s 26 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals, the Indians moved to 10-8 overall, 6-4 in conference.
“Our team is young and talented and capable of beating the odds of only having one senior,’’ said LaMotte. “That’s stereotypical that young teams won’t be able to push through and make it. We’re at a point where we’re very locked in together and stick together. That’s what’s helped us win so many games against these very good teams in our conference..’’
Indeed, head coach Jay Allen, in his 12th season, can give sermons on the strength of A2.
“We’re in the toughest conference in Nassau with Southside, Elmont, Great Neck North, Garden City us,’’ Allen said. “And we’re competitive. Every game is a battle. Every night is, like they say about boxing, styles make fights. You never have an easy night. The fact we are a young team bodes well for the program.’’
McLennon, a 6-3 junior swingman, can score from anywhere and averages 17.5 points. Junior Jordan Tucker (14 points) is the other chief offensive threat, playing shooting guard with range. But the glue is junior point guard Nasir McMillan.
“I don’t want to say our offenses wins us games because it doesn’t,’’ LaMotte said. “We pride ourselves on defense. Someone who comes to mind is McMillan our point guard. He brings the energy on defense and drives us to get stops, rebounds and pushes us to do better. When the offense comes around, it’s easier for McLennon and Tucker to get off shots based off our prior defensive possession.
LaMotte is a defensive power forward who averages 5.5 points and 10.4 rebounds. But his off-the-court ways is even more important. After all, he’s student president.
“He’s a true leader,’’ Allen said. “Somebody who leads by example and vocal leader the other kids respect. He’s an extension of the coaching staff.’’
Playing a zone, the Indians don’t have a true center but 6-3 Fritz Pajotte plays that role. Off the bench, Allen has three sophomores in the rotation, further pointing toward a bigger future for Sewanhaka.
They are guards Miles Gurley, Matthew Abreu and Braylon Metellus, the latter who started the season on JV.
It’s a guard-heavy team and the sophomores have a solid role model in McMillan. “His game is really to get us into our offense,’’ Allen said. “He’s a true point guard, pass-first guy who does score at times. He’s very tough, very good defender.”
There’s two games left before the postseason as Sewanhaka looks for a better seeding. They face Roslyn and Great Neck North, having beaten each team in the first battle. Then the question will loom on how far can Sewanhaka go? Last season’s senior-laden team won the conference.
“As a young team, we’re going to be optimistic but with the understanding we have a lot to learn,’’ LaMotte said. “As for predictions, the sky’s the limit.’’