Five games. Four losses, three by two points.
That was how Josh Dennis, Noah Shy and the Valley Stream North boys basketball team finished the 2014-15 season. With one more win, the Spartans would have earned their first playoff berth since 2010.
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The memory — especially of the season-ending two-point loss to Valley Stream South — has not withered with time.
“That’s always been in the back of our minds,” coach Dan Achatz said.
No win has eased the pain, and the Spartans have not lost since their 2014-15 finale. Their gritty 57-46 victory over host Floral Park on Thursday in Nassau A-III was their ninth victory of the season.
“We’re not really playing like an undefeated team,” Dennis said. “We’re playing like a team that hasn’t gotten a win. That’s how we’re looking at it.”
Considering how last season began, that mindset is critical. The Spartans won nine of their first 11 games before the cold streak.
“Last year we got complacent. We were happy,” Dennis said. “This year we know we’re supposed to win.”
Even with Dennis (the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game) saddled with early foul trouble, the Spartans delivered. Shy had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists, Taliq Abdul- Rahim added 14 points and three steals, and Dwight Jones stepped up with eight points off the bench.
It did not matter that Dennis scored only two points and sat out half the game.
“We don’t get frazzled or anything,” Shy said. “We just stayed strong and kept going.”
That has been a theme for the Spartans, who recently battled out of a 16-0 hole to take a halftime lead in a victory over Lawrence (8-1) and beat Seaford by a point.
Then they fended off Floral Park (4-6), a team that never trailed by more than 12 on Thursday and trimmed the gap to 47-44 with six minutes left.
The Spartans have carried last year’s heartbreaking losses with them, and they will continue to do so.
“We,” Shy said, “are trying to get somewhere this year.”