A young Freeport boys’ basketball team is looking to close an up-and-down season on a high note and lay a strong foundation for next season.
The Red Devils enter the final two games of the season at 3-7 in Conference AA1 and eliminated from playoff contention following an 81-41 loss to defending county champion Uniondale. While consistently hasn’t always been there on a team with just one senior starter, head coach Larry Steimer is excited about the development of next year’s returning players and their motivation to reach bigger heights.
“They battle and effort is never an issue with these guys,” Steimer said. “We want to keep building that experience.”
Senior point guard Tah’Jae Jones has provided a veteran presence in the backcourt after missing almost of all last year due to injury. Jones is the team’s leading scorer averaging 13 points per game and he tallied 20 in a 61-54 loss to Oceanside on Dec. 17 in the conference opener.
“He did a lot of rehab to get back,” Steimer said of Jones. “He is tough.”
Junior shooting guard Justin Norman is also a scoring threat averaging 12.5 points per game. He was the team’s leading scorer with 20 points in a heartbreaking 53-52 loss at Farmingdale on Jan. 7 and then registered a career-high 26 in a 54-51 victory against Massapequa on Jan. 14.
Daynel St. Louis has emerged as an additional offensive threat from the perimeter. The junior guard, who led the Red Devils with 14 points in a 50-44 home loss to Farmingdale on Feb. 1 has also been a force on the defensive end of the floor typically guarding the opposing team’s top player.
“He is our most athletic player,” Steimer said of St. Louis. “He is a very solid defender.”
Freeport lacks size inside, but junior 5-11 forward Amir Mujahir has held his own in the paint with some key rebounds and blocks. He tallied 10 points in 52-43 home win against Freeport on Jan. 4.
Senior forward Sherrard Bishop has stepped up late in the season due to injuries to contribute some key minutes off the bench. Bishop scored a season-high seven points in a 48-45 win against Oceanside on Jan. 24.
With Freeport lacking size inside, Steimer has emphasized ball movement on offense with dribble penetration along with pick and rolls. The Red Devils also look to utilize their athleticism to press on defense and try and force turnovers that lead to transition baskets.
“We have to mask for our lack of size,” Steimer said of the team’s style of play. “It has been keeping us in games.”
Freeport plays its second-to-last game Thursday at Massapequa for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Red Devils then will look to enter the offseason with momentum in the season finale at home Saturday against Syosset starting at noon.