Freeport shows marked improvement

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Freeport boys’ basketball was eager to turn the corner on a rough 2017-18 campaign that resulted in just two wins in 17 games.

The Red Devils have done just that, doubling their win total before this season’s holiday break and enjoying a stretch of seven victories in nine games until they were cooled off by Conference AA-I rival Uniondale last Saturday, 49-40. Freeport couldn’t recover from a 13-point opening half and was led offensively by a 16-point performance from senior Jayden Bumpass off the bench.

“It’s all a matter of being consistent and staying focused,” Red Devils head coach Larry Steimer said. “It’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride, but the results are so much better than last season. When the flashes are there, we see how good we can be.”

Uniondale (7-0 in conference play) received contributions from its entire lineup. Rolando Meyers-Turner was the Knights’ lone double-digit scorer with 10 points, but six others chipped in six or more. Seniors Darren Fergus and Talique Jackson added 10 and 9 points, respectively, for Freeport, which fell to 3-2 in AA-I and 7-5 overall.

“Uniondale did a great job in the first half,” Steimer said. “They boxed out better than we did and forced turnovers. We shot well in the second half but it was a little too late.”

The Red Devils opened January with a pair of thrilling victories. Fergus came up big in crunch time at Oceanside on Jan. 3, hitting a pair of late treys to force overtime where his driving layup with 24 seconds left put Freeport up for good in a 61-59 win. Fergus, a transfer from St. Mary’s who shares most of the point guard responsibilities with junior Tah’Jae Jones, had 20 points. Jackson had 19 and junior Terrance Edmond added nine.

“Darren came up huge,” Steimer said. “Oceanside was doubling on Talique, and he gave up the ball quickly on some reversals that gave Darren good looks.”

Two days later, behind Jackson’s second-half fireworks, the Red Devils rallied from 18 points down to beat visiting Syosset, 59-57. Jackson scored all but three of his game-high 27 points after halftime. Jones added 15 points, including three clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, and Fergus chipped in 13. Jackson, Jones and Fergus combined for nine three-pointers.

“We’re pretty dependent on threes and our transition game,” Steimer said. “We have a lot of talent. We just have to be able to manage the lows better.”

Freeport split a pair of conference home games in December, including a 63-58 victory over Hempstead that kicked off a three-game win streak. Bumpass hit for 22 points in that one. The Red Devils dropped the AA-I opener to Massapequa and are looking forward to a rematch with the Chiefs on the road this Friday at 7 p.m.

“There are things we can improve the rest of the way, though I’m happy where we’re at,” Steimer said.