By Joe Galotti
After suffering its first loss of the season on Saturday, the Northport boys’ basketball team wasted little time in getting back to its winning ways. On Tuesday night, the Tigers jumped out to an early 17-2 lead on visiting Lindenhurst, and never looked back, as they came away with a 55-41 victory.
The win improved the Tigers’ record to 15-1 on the year, and clinched a League II regular season championship for the program. While Northport’s players realize they have plenty of work ahead of them still this winter, the achievement was certainly not lost on the club.
“This is a really great accomplishment for us, because we play in probably the best league on Long Island,” Northport senior guard Brennan Whelan said.
Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
“This is huge for us,” O’Shea said. “It’s great knowing that we’ll have a banner up on the wall, and that it will hang there forever.”
O’Shea finished with a game-high 15 points in his team’s win over the Bulldogs, while Whelan dished out 10 assists. The club also got nine points apiece from junior guard Kevin Cryer-Hassett and senior guard Rory Schynder.
In total, 11 different players scored for the Tigers in the contest. Ball movement has been a key for Northport all season long, and on Tuesday the team’s passing and court vision was once again on point.
“We’re an unselfish team by nature, and we also work a lot on passing,” Northport’s head coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “Our guys really do understand that if they move the ball, they get an open shot, and they enjoy playing that way.”
Northport’s veteran group seems to have fully bought into this philosophy.
“We’ve all been playing with each other for a couple of years now, and we always look to make the extra pass, because that’s what makes our offense work so well,” Whelan said.
The Tigers also put together a strong night on their own end of the court, giving up just four points in the opening quarter and 12 points in the first half. This allowed Northport to take a commanding 22-point advantage into halftime, and give rest to its starters down the stretch.
Senior forward Lukas Jarrett was a major catalyst on the defensive end, registering five blocks on the night.
“Our defense started everything tonight,” D’Eloia said. “We just really committed to helping each other, and trying to stay in front of them. We made them take tough shots, and that helped generate our offense early on.”
Lindenhurst outscored the Tigers 29-21 in the game’s final 16 minutes, but was never able to draw within single-digits again. Manny Oyakhilome led the Bulldogs with 14 points in a losing effort.
With a league title now in hand, Northport looks to have a strong finish to what has been a memorable regular season campaign to this point.
“We definitely want to go undefeated [in league play],” O’Shea said. “But we also know that we have to take it one game at a time.”
The Tigers, now 10-0 in League II, will next travel to face off against Walt Whitman on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. The Wildcats have struggled of late, but D’Eloia is not overlooking the league rival.
“They’re a very well coached and disciplined team, and they would like nothing more than to knock us off,” D’Eloia said. “So we’re going to prepare for that game the same way we’ve prepared for all the other games.”