For Baldwin, after practice makes perfect.
An assortment of creative spin moves and bank shots, the product of one-on-one post-practice sessions between Dominique Aberdeen and Ashanti DePass, were on display Friday. The Bruins shook off an eight-point first quarter and rolled to a 66-49 victory over host Hempstead, which featured a packed gym, a DJ, a speaker system and plenty of loud music during pregame, timeouts and halftime.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, it was the visitors who didn't miss a beat. Aberdeen scored 20 and DePass 17 as Baldwin improved to 9-2 overall, 5-2 in Nassau Conference AA-I. Hempstead, whose leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Parks suffered torn ankle ligaments last week and is out indefinitely, fell to 7-5, 3-4.
"I love the music. I love the loud crowds," said DePass, who didn't score until midway through the second quarter.
"I thought the loud music threw us off a little," Aberdeen said.
Indeed, Baldwin mustered only eight points in the first quarter before its trapping, pressing defense started forcing the issue. Turnovers and easy baskets soon followed.
"When we start playing defense, the deflections and steals come," said DePass, whose three-pointer from the wing beat the buzzer and gave Baldwin a 26-18 halftime lead.
"We turn defense into offense, not offense into defense," Aberdeen said.
When the halftime music show stopped, the Bruins began their own dance routine. Aberdeen scored three straight baskets - a coast-to-coast beauty, an acrobatic spinning, twisting hook and a neat up-and-under layup. DePass closed the third quarter with two inventive spin moves that resulted in successful bank shots and a 42-27 lead.
Aberdeen added a couple of tricky layups in the fourth quarter. DePass kept shaking free, but got hacked and had to settle for six fourth-quarter free throws.
"We work on the press and getting steals in practice," Aberdeen said. "But after practice, Coach [Darius Burton] lets us play around."
DePass and Aberdeen go one-on-one, working on moves that may have started out as trick shots but are now full-blown parts of their repertoire.
"Those are their patented moves," Burton said. "Those nice little spin pull-ups."
DePass said he doesn't like to force anything, but if he gets the opportunity, he'll bust a move. "Dominique and I practice them together. I've really got to work on mine," said DePass, an excellent ballhandler. "If I take them, they've got to go in. Otherwise, coach might get mad."
Told of DePass' admission, Burton replied, "He's got that right."