It was late in the winter of 2013-14 when a couple of sophomores from Brentwood lit up the Long Island high school basketball landscape. Mike Almonacy delivered no-look passes in transition and Jamel Allen finished with an assortment of dunks as the Indians rolled to county and Long Island championships and the program’s first trip to the state tournament in Glens Falls since 2005.
Last winter the results were just as successful, with another trip to Glens Falls, though a tad less spectacular. Ali Mableton and Tavon Ginyard joined Almonacy and Allen to give Brentwood four big-time scoring options and less chance for the A&A guys to hog the postseason spotlight.
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This season, it’s back to the future. “It’s like going back to our sophomore year when we had to dominate and put Brentwood on the map,” said the 6-2 Almonacy, a scoring point guard who signed with Stony Brook in the fall.
He and fellow senior Allen, a 6-6 center who is drawing Division I interest as a forward from several schools, are the only starters left from Brentwood’s last two Long Island championship teams that fell short of a state Class AA title.
The duo wants its already impressive legacy to include a state championship after losing in the semifinals as sophomores and in the final as juniors. “That’s the goal and that’s what motivates me every day,” said Almonacy, in his fifth year on the varsity.
Allen, whose brother Rahmel is one of three new starters, acknowledged the unfinished business. “I’ll be honest. It’s a lot of pressure,” Allen said. “It’ll be tough on the new guys but it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be challenging.”
To again survive strong challenges in Suffolk AA, Brentwood won’t be spreading the wealth as it did last season. This time around, if Almonacy’s driving, dishing, defense and downtown shooting don’t get you, Allen’s interior domination — featuring dunks and rejections along with an ever-improving three-point shot — will.
“Those two are definitely our go-to guys,” Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said. “Last year we had four guys who could score at will. We’re so different this year, but Mike and Jamel are still as unselfish as they were last year because they have faith in their teammates.”
Jimenez likes his veterans’ myriad skills, of course, but he absolutely loves the mental aspect of their games. “I can never question their work ethic. They are two ferocious players even during practice,” Jimenez said. “All I ask of them is to provide leadership.”
Almonacy always has been a vocal, take-charge guy; Allen is growing into that role. “Coach stresses leadership to me and Mike a lot. That’s all he cares about,” Allen said. “If we are doing something right, hopefully the other players will follow. If not, then we have to get on them. I’m very comfortable in that role.”
Both players have worked diligently to improve their games for the next level. For Almonacy, that meant getting quicker and stronger to help his defense and adding range to his three-point shot. For Allen, it meant spending the summer shooting more than 500 jumpers a day with his brother Rahmel to become confident in the three-point shot that complements his power moves.
Both will get a chance to show off those skills. “I want Mike and Jamel to take over during crunch time,” Jimenez said.
That’s a familiar role for Almonacy. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve been the guy with the ball at the end because everyone trusts me,” he said. “This year I might have to shoot a little bit more, score a little bit more, which I’m OK with.”
And if he and Allen can rekindle some of those alley-oop moments from their sophomore year, that’s OK, too. “Of course, of course,” Allen said with a laugh. “Those are my favorites, especially when it’s me and Mike on the break. Then it’s Showtime!”
It’s a show we’ve seen before.