There are several common elements in every high school basketball coach’s game plan come playoff time. Among them are playing with poise and confidence, getting everyone involved on offense, and putting forth a solid effort on the defensive end of the floor.
In Valley Stream South High’s convincing 75-45 victory over visiting Kennedy in the opening round of the Nassau Class A playoffs last Saturday afternoon, the Falcons followed the blueprint to a T.
Senior Aaron Davis scored 10 points, dished out 10 assists, and added five steals, and senior Corey Powell scored a game-high 28 points to lead the way. The Cougars got 22 points from senior Marco Travaglione. No. 3 South, which improved to 16-4, will host No. 6 Roosevelt on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in a quarterfinal matchup.
The Falcons went on a 10-point run in the opening quarter to take a 15- 5 lead and never looked back. While Davis didn’t find the bottom of the net until the second quarter, the senior point guard seemed to have a hand in every basket.
“I prefer the assist over the basket,” Davis said. “As a point guard, I think dish before swish. As a team, we focus on defense first. We’re a good offensive team, but it all starts with getting it done on defense. Defense transitions into offense.”
Bellmore kept things close midway through the second quarter, but with Travaglione on the bench in foul trouble, the Falcons went on a 16-3 run to close out the half, and headed to the locker room with a 40-22 lead. Powell scored 12 of his 20 first half points during the run.
South head coach Mike O’Brien was impressed with his team’s performance. “The poise that the guys are showing is probably what I’m most proud of,” O’Brien said. “These guys are really buying into not allowing distractions to get to them. The crowds and the atmosphere can get tough. It’s important for the guys to stay within themselves.”
Any thoughts of a comeback by the Cougars in the second half were dashed quickly. With Davis setting up teammates for easy baskets, and the defense swarming, South went on an 18-3 run to increase its lead to 61-30 with 1:46 to play in the third quarter. Davis scored eight points during the quarter.
The Falcons were far from a two-man show. Sophomore Jahiem Pilgrim scored a career-high 16 points, 10 in the opening half, and senior Elijah Johnson (8) and junior Emil Williams combined for 15 points. Kennedy, which won an outbracket game against Calhoun to qualify for the playoffs, finished at 10-10.
“We knew this was going to be a game dictated by tempo,” O’Brien said. “We went out there in a full court press and played with high energy. That’s when we’re out our best. There are some real good teams out there. We faced some tough opponents during the regular season, so I feel like we’re prepared for anything.”