The Center Moriches boys basketball team wanted to run on Sunday morning.
The Red Devils rolled to an 88-53 victory over Jericho in the Richard Brown Nassau-Suffolk Challenge at Uniondale High School, sparked by a swarming full-court press and fast-paced offense.
“We love playing fast tempo,” said forward Micah Snowden, who finished with 17 points and 21 rebounds. “Some teams can’t run with us and we know we’ve got size and speed. That’s what sets us apart.”
Center Moriches (11-5) jumped out to a 13-5 lead less than four minutes into the game, but while the Red Devils’ shots were falling, it was the squad’s defense that got everything started.
“We’re built off of defense,” coach Nick Thomas said. “We pride ourselves possession by possession and that’s where it starts and stops for us. These guys did a good job today of capitalizing and turning defense into offense.”
The Red Devils brought pressure from every angle throughout the first half, settling into a full-court attack that forced turnovers and kept Jericho (7-6) from finding much early-game rhythm. Center Moriches pushed tempo, wrapping up the second quarter on a 16-2 run, including 10 straight points from Tyiquon Nix.
It was more than enough to give Center Moriches a boost of confidence, heading into halftime with a 40-27 lead.
“They couldn’t guard us one-on-one,” said Nix, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “We came in thinking that no one could slow us down and that’s how we played.”
Jericho did its best to rally in the second half and, with 3:29 left in the third quarter, Hamza Malik made it an eight-point game with a three from the corner.
Center Moriches, however, didn’t flinch. Instead, the Red Devils switched up defenses, alternating between man-to-man and a 3-2 zone, and opened up the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run to make it a 74-46 game with 5:13 to play.
“We know how to take a punch and give it,” said guard Sean Braithwaite. “When it got to single digits, we stayed calm and knew what to do.”
Center Moriches outscored Jericho 26-10 in the fourth quarter, giving up only three field goals. It was a complete-game performance the Red Devils have strived for all season and one they hope will be the building block of a deep playoff run.
“We want to close quarters, close haves and ultimately finish games,” Thomas said. “That’s something we talked about in terms of having a championship pedigree.”