The North Shore Vikings need two more Conference A4 victories to clinch a Nassau Class A boys’ basketball playoff spot. They have six league games remaining. Out of the final six, they have beaten five of them already. They have already bested the next four opponents that they will face. To head coach Kevin Carpenter, though, that doesn’t matter.
“We are not naïve to the fact that we are going to have a four game battle coming up,” Carpenter said. “All four coaches will have their guys ready to go. Of course, we want to qualify for the playoffs as quickly as we can, but we don’t really talk about it too much right now. We have to take it one game at a time.”
North Shore most recently dropped a 61-47 home game to first-in-league Wantagh, who has yet to lose this season. Wantagh’s Brandon Goldberg, one of the county’s top players, led the game in scoring with a game-high 25 and dominated the glass. Taking nothing away from Wantagh, Carpenter stressed, he did admit that he was playing the majority of this game without two of its key players.
Aiden Mandell missed the Wantagh game, his second in a row, after going down with an injury against Bethpage on Jan. 15. Early in the second quarter of the Wantagh game, starter Will Scarola exited with a groin injury. Both are expected back at the tail end of this week, which Carpenter said may be the most crucial week of the season for North Shore.
“We have a huge game against Plainedge and another against Floral Park on Thursday,” Carpenter said. “This is a huge week for North Shore. With the injuries we currently have, guys need to step up and play in big spots. It starts with practice and ends with our games.”
In its first matchup with Plainedge, Carpenter’s crew won 68-49. Phil LaRosa just narrowly led the Vikings with 13 points. But, as has been the case with the Vikings all year, they had a variety of scorers. LaRosa, Jack Ledden, Scarola and Dan Quigley all reached double figures, while Mandell, Luke Jacklin, David Berlin, Chris Bartlett, Matt Falcone and Jake Sasso all scored.
“We have a few guys who can get to double figures pretty regularly,” Carpenter said. “We look to attack as a team. We don’t give the ball to one guy and say ‘go get us a bucket.’” Carpenter also credits some success to his ability to call upon players deep into his bench.
Now, North Shore looks to add small changes to its game plan ahead of its final six games. After working on new wrinkles to it’s defensive schemes at practice on Monday, Jan. 27, Carpenter called his kids in for a huddle. They discussed the untimely passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
“As coaches, our vehicle is basketball but really, we guide the lives of young people everyday,” Carpenter said. “I told them that while looking at his highlights now, look a little deeper. Look at the man. The biggest part of this all is that life is extremely delicate. Cherish every moment.”