With a margin for error that is infinitesimal, Freeport has been about as up and down as a team can be on the basketball court in 2019-20. The Red Devils haven’t been able to win back-to-back games, but they also haven’t lost more than two straight at any point of the season.
The team enters the second half of the league schedule with an overall record of 5-8 (2-4 in Nassau Conference AA-I), but it could easily be 4-2 in league play. The Red Devils lost consecutive games in heartbreaking fashion; a 53-52 defeat at Farmingdale followed by a 54-52 loss when defending Nassau AA champion Uniondale came to town.
However, Freeport showed its resilience after the two defeats. Justin Norman scored a career-high 26 points, including a lay up in the waning seconds that put the game away, to lead the Red Devils to a 54-51 victory over visiting Massapequa. Freeport outscored the Chiefs 14-8 in the final quarter. Tah-jae Jones, the team’s leading scorer, added 16 points.
“We need to be more consistent,” Freeport head coach Larry Steimer said. “We don’t have that one go-to scorer, so there are times when we’re tentative down the stretch of games. We have to get better at decision-making in the fourth quarter. That comes with experience.”
Jones, who missed much of last season with an injury, has been good. The senior point guard runs the offense and isn’t afraid to take big shots. He is averaging 14.3 points per game, and scored a career-high 23 in an early-season, non-league 57-48 victory over Bellport.
Norman, perhaps the most talented player from what is a very strong junior class, has been an excellent backcourt complement to Jones. Norman is averaging 13.6 per contest and has been lethal at times from behind the arc. He hit a season-high five three-pointers in the loss to Farmingdale.
Junior Danyel St. Louis has been strong on both ends of the floor and may be just scratching the surface. St. Louis, who scored 20 points in a 57-53 loss to defending Long Island Class A champion Manhasset in December, leads the team in assists and plays terrific on-ball defense.
The Red Devils are vertically challenged in the frontcourt, but despite giving up inches to every opponent, they have held their own in the paint. Juniors Amir Mujahir and Joshua Hazzard have just gotten better and better. Senior Arnold Cruz has served as an inspirational presence and has given the team some good minutes.
Freeport will likely need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to secure a playoff berth. “We’re just going to take it a game at a time and see where the chips fall,” Steimer said. “The key is going to be how we close out games. We need to keep the ball moving and stay focused. Our shooting from the foul line needs to be better, too. It’s been our Achilles’ Heel.”
Freeport welcomes in Oceanside this Friday evening at 6.