Shane Gatling had a little extra on his mind Sunday.
“I played poorly the last couple of games and I wanted to show people I’m one of the best players on Long Island,” the Baldwin senior guard said.
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The perfect attention-getter was his opponent — Deer Park junior guard Darien Jenkins. The two were matched up often and both excelled with 23-point performances. But Gatling had the better surrounding cast in a matchup of Class AA powers and Baldwin pulled away for a 68-52 victory in the first Tip of the Hat Hoops Classic at Adelphi.
“I had to bounce back for my teammates,” Gatling said. “I know that Jenkins is one of the best players in Suffolk, and that helped me focus.”
He and junior Jared Rhoden, who scored 18 points, helped Baldwin improve to 7-2.
Deer Park (5-3) shot well in the first quarter in building an 18-14 lead, but that served as a wake-up call for the Bruins’ pressure defense.
“We were sleeping in that first quarter,” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said. “In the second quarter, we finally played the kind of defense we’re capable of and held them to four points. We tried to wear them down with pressure and they didn’t get the same shots they got in the first quarter.”
Baldwin outscored Deer Park 16-4 in the second quarter to build a 30-22 halftime lead and made it a 13-0 run by scoring the first six points of the third quarter, including a lefty reverse layup in transition by Gatling and a step-back jumper after a steal by Rhoden. The Bruins closed the third quarter on a 12-0 burst to take a 50-31 lead.
Gatling kept the ball moving as point guard Jabeon Bivins (five points) and Rhoden (four) contributed to that blitz. The Bruins’ defense also was strong in the third quarter. “We found out their weakness and kept after them,” Gatling said.
Baldwin forced Jenkins to pass the ball. “If he doesn’t have the ball,’’ Gatling said, “we’re a better defensive team.”
Jenkins had one long three-pointer in the third quarter, but that was it. He got hot in the fourth, with two more threes and 11 points, but the Falcons never got closer than the final 16-point margin, partially because Jenkins didn’t have a sidekick as talented as Rhoden.
“He’s one of the top juniors on Long Island,” Burton said. “He worked tremendously hard in the offseason. He can shoot it and he can put the ball on the floor. He creates matchup problems for other guys at the ‘3’ spot.”
Gatling has expanded his game, too, showing off his slashing ability on several hard drives through traffic. “I worked on getting to the basket. Everybody thinks of me as just a shooter. But I can create for my teammates,” he said. “I’m not just a shooter.”
That’s just another point for Gatling to prove.