The strategy of the Longwood boys basketball team is simple: create havoc.
The No. 7 Lions went ahead by 18 points in the first quarter and never lost the lead en route to a 67-55 home victory over No. 10 Connetquot Saturday in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA tournament.
“We just play with so much aggression,” said junior point guard Jordan Manderson, who had five points, five assists, three steals and was at the front of a suffocating full-court press that forced Connetquot into a ragged game that they were unable to survive. “If I stop my man and we’re all aggressive, then I feel like we’re going to win every time.”
The Lions raced out to a 22-5 advantage in the first quarter, led by Emmanuel Rancy’s eight points. But Connetquot recovered its composure in the second quarter, and chipped away at the lead at the free-throw line. Seth Goumba (21 points) made 8 of 9 free throws in the quarter.
Connetquot got within 10 points, but Longwood snuffed their momentum in the last 18 seconds, Manderson hitting a three-pointer, then making a steal that led to a layup by Jalen Ryan, followed by another turnover and a Ryan three-pointer from half court that put the Lions ahead 40-22 at the half.
“He had his hand down, so I made the three, and then Jalen got the ball and he knew what to do,” Manderson said. “It real ly had the crowd rumbling going into the half and we brought that energy into the second half.”
Isaiah Whitty scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half and added four steals for Longwood. Jarenel Rancy had eight points, nine rebounds and seven blocks as the Lions led 56-35 after the third quarter.
“He’s our relief,” both Whitty and Manderson said of Rancy, their rim protector.
The team’s leading scorer with 12.2 points per game, Whitty understands his role on a team that is defined by their defense. “My job is to score,” said the junior, “but it’s just as important to play aggressively and talk to my teammates on defense.”
Communication is a key, especially on a defense as hostile as Longwood.
The Lions will face No. 2 Deer Park on Tuesday in the Class AA quarterfinal. As for the game plan, there is no surprise.
“Tough one-on-one, contain, and push in transition. Our whole emphasis is going to be on defense,” coach Patrick Hayes said.