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Baldwin uses stifling defense to take down last unbeaten

Baldwin Boys Basketball player Shane Gatling (11), during

Baldwin Boys Basketball player Shane Gatling (11), during the 2nd Annual LuHi Invitational held at Long Island Lutheran School, Brookville, New York, on Saturday Jan. 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Playing at Baldwin is not like driving on the Long Island Expressway. The Bruins can’t get away with even slightly exceeding 55.

“Coach wants us to hold opponents under 55,” Bruins forward Jared Rhodes said.

“Want” might be understating the case just a bit. “Demand” is more like it.

“We have a goal. It’s 55 points or less. If they meet it, I’ll take some time off our defensive drills in practice,” Baldwin coach Darius Burton said, with a devilish smile that implied serious extra running when that goal isn’t met.

No need for extra wind sprints. The Bruins’ boys basketball team used a blistering defense that wore down Northport in the second half Saturday and they cruised to a 70-48 victory in the Long Island Lutheran Invitational played in Brookville.

“At halftime, we were ahead 33-29 and I told them that won’t get it done. That’s 58 for the game,” Burton said. “That’s a great team with a lot of guys who can shoot it, and we held them to 19 points in the second half with great ball pressure.”

In suffering their first loss of the season and becoming the last boys team on Long Island to lose a game this season, Northport (14-1) led 29-28 before Baldwin’s Shane Gatling (21 points) hit a spinning turnaround and then a buzzer-beating three-pointer to close out the first half.

The Bruins (14-2) exploded for 21 points in the third quarter divided among all five starters and they scored the final seven points of the period to take a 54-39 lead. Gatling nailed a three from the wing and Rhodes hit back to back layups, one after a steal and the other after a block.

“That’s our style. Play aggressive,” said Rhodes, who scored 19 points. “Get stops, get steals. Turnovers lead to points.”

Sean O’Shea hit four three-pointers and led Northport with 16 points while the team’s leading scorer, Luke Jarrett, managed only 14 against the swarming, trapping Baldwin.

“We cause turnovers and force bad shots,” Gatling said. “We saw a weakness in their 1-3-1 zone in the second half and were able to take advantage of it.”

Gatling often sparks the defense with his quick hands and quick feet, and can finish at the rim or from the perimeter. When he scored the final points of the first half to turn the game in his team’s favor, it was typical of the senior captain.

“When I see us having ups and downs, that’s when I try to take over,” Gatling said. “That’s what happened at the end of the second quarter. In the second half, my teammates did the job and I didn’t try to take over the game.”

The Bruins went pedal to the metal to keep it under 55.

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