South Side’s boys’ basketball team has dominated Conference AA-5 and was approching title status again with an 11-0 record and only three games left.
But after falling to Manhasset, 67-58, what once seemed to be almost certain is now anything but.
Of all the teams to subdue South Side, Manhasset was the most likely candidate. The Cyclones won the previous matchup between the two sides last month, handing Manhasset its only conference loss in a rematch of last season’s Nassau Class A championship game. Last Saturday, the Indians returned the favor.
“Give Manhasset a ton of credit,” South Side head coach Jerry D’Angelo said. “They played harder than us. They were more physical than us, more aggressive than us and they ran harder than us.”
The audience inside the South Side High School gymnasium spilled out into the hallway for the highly anticipated rematch.
South Side commanded the tempo to begin the game but barely held onto a slim 29-28 lead at halftime. One it let slip in the third quarter.
“I'm disheartened with when they started to push the lead in the third quarter, how did we respond? We didn't respond by playing South Side basketball,” D’Angelo said. “We responded by playing one-on-one basketball.”
Manhasset jumped ahead when senior guard James Notias flew to the rim with emphasis to score a contested layup. From there, South Side never regained the advantage as Notias poured in a game-high 30. Spiro Venetis added 17.
“They just have a good motor,” D’Angelo said. “They can both shoot it well, and they can both go to the basket well. If you play them on the three, they drive. If you lay off them, they can both shoot it. In past times, we’ve been able to contain them, so we could contest threes. They got a lot of threes and they got a lot of layups in transition.”
While Manhasset was productive from all areas of the floor, South Side struggled to hit shots in the paint.
With little space to operate, senior forward Patrick Mullin was forced to play as if he had one hand tied behind his back. Even still, he put up 19 points.
“A bad day for us is still a pretty good day for him,” D’Angelo said. “He was getting double-teamed, triple-teamed, every time he touched the ball. I think what got a little frustrating is some of the teammates around him didn't step up and give him a little more support.”
Ryan Schmitt had 13 points for South Side, which also got with 12 from John Pericolosi and 8 from Matthew DeSena.
Senior captain Ryan Kennedy missed his second straight game with a leg injury. Without its best rebounder, South Side was held off the glass and in search of a new second option.
“I hope we respond in a positive nature, understanding that when we don't do what we need to do, we can lose,” D’Angelo said. “We're effective when we rebound, defend well, run in transition and are confident in our shots. That's worthwhile. Today, we didn’t do that.”
South Side faces Glen Cove and Kennedy this week to close the regular season. Two wins would guarantee the Cyclones at least a share of the AA-5 crown.