Behind its defensive energy and a well-balanced offense, South Side avenged each of its two Nassau Conference A-III boys’ basketball losses over a four-day span to change the complexion of the race for the top spot.
Seniors John Murphy (20), Ryan Ledwith (17) and Jack McDonald (12) all scored in double figures to lead the Cyclones to a ninth consecutive victory overall and seventh straight in conference play, 64-51 at home over Jericho on Jan. 28. The Jayhawks’ Brandon Weiss, who entered the game as the leading scorer in the county, was held to half of his average — a season-low 13 points.
“We wanted to slow down their transition game and containing Weiss was also definitely a concern,” said South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo, who noted Jericho scored 21 fast-break points in its 81-64 win over the Cyclones on Dec. 20. “We’re simply playing better basketball than we were a month ago,” he added. “We’re in a good stretch and I still think there’s room for us to improve.”
South Side held a 14-13 lead after eight minutes and turned its defense up a notch in the second quarter to take command. It scored 16 of the last 19 points of the half, held the Jayhawks to eight points in the quarter, and led 36-21 at intermission. Murphy had 15 first-half points.
“We gave up the first couple of baskets to start the second half, but then we got a big stop and scored in transition and didn’t let them get within single digits,” D’Angelo said. “To limit them to only eight points in transition for the game says a lot.”
The result marked back-to-back games the Cyclones avenged a loss to a conference rival. They fell at home in the Dec. 18 A-III opener to Roslyn, 55-53, but turned the tide on the Bulldogs on the final Saturday in January, winning 62-46 behind Murphy’s 19 points and senior Eamon McGowan’s 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“We had a nice game plan,” D’Angelo said. “Roslyn is always a tough place to win and a tough team to get transition points against. We took way too many bad shots the first time we played, but we’re a healthier and better team now. We scored 24 points in transition and rode the emotion of a strong first half.”
D’Angelo said he emphasized getting an early lead to take some of the buzz out of Roslyn’s crowd, and the Cyclones (12-3 overall) did just that. They led 18-8 after the first quarter and never let off the gas. Ledwith added 13 points, senior Quinn Shannon knocked down three threes, and McDonald grabbed 11 rebounds.
South Side, Jericho and Roslyn are all tied in the loss column. Jericho and Roslyn have yet to meet for a second time.
“We’re playing well and with confidence, but there’s still four more games and we’re going to get the best swings from teams in playoff contention,” said D’Angelo, who lauded the sparks provided by Anthony Pericolosi, Owen Mullen and Griffin O’Shea off the bench.