It might have been the first game of the regular season for the Deer Park boys basketball team, but it felt like a playoff atmosphere.
Point guard Malik Edmead set the tone in the early going and sent the Falcons’ crowd into a frenzy when he threw down an emphatic one-handed slam during the first half in Tuesday night’s non-league game against Longwood.
The dunk capped a 12-0 run to end the half and helped propel host Deer Park to a 71-59 win over the Lions. Edmead scored eight of his 27 points in the second quarter and had 15 going into halftime. Fellow senior Mark Cordero knocked down three three-pointers in the game and chipped in 20 points.
“We all came in amped up for this game. It’s my senior year and a lot of my friends on the team are seniors,” Edmead said. “We started to play good defense after the first quarter and converted that into scoring opportunities. After I threw down the big dunk it was a big momentum boost for the rest of the game.”
“Malik is a great player and he knows how to find the open man,” Cordero said. “Him distributing the ball gives me the energy to keep knocking down shots.”
The turning point came late in the second quarter with the Falcons trailing 24-19. Deer Park coach John McCaffrey called a timeout to calm his team after Longwood went on a 6-0 run.
Out of the timeout Cordero connected on a three-pointer to cut the deficit to just two. Jeremiah Mobley (17 points) had an answer as he nailed a three-pointer from the right wing to put the Lions back up five.
Then the Falcons exploded, holding Longwood scoreless for the final three minutes of the half to take a 34-27 lead at halftime.
“During the timeout coach told us to just keep our composure because we were going back-and-forth,” Edmead said. “We wanted to play our game.”
Deer Park outscored the Lions 19-9 in the second quarter and scored the first five points of the third quarter to extend its 12-0 run to 17-0.
“Malik is as good of a guard as there is on Long Island. He’s had a spectacular career and when the game is on the line the ball is going to be in his hands,” McCaffrey said. “When the game gets close, he’s got to play defense for us too.”
Ke’Andre Penceal did all he could for Longwood, scoring 19 of his 27 points in the second half. The Lions are one of the top teams in Suffolk I and McCaffrey knows the importance of playing competitive games outside of the conference.
“There’s no point in playing a non-league schedule that is soft, that isn’t going to get us better. These games get us better,” McCaffrey said. “Competing against a team like that who is physical, defends and has a tradition of winning, makes you better as a program and that’s why we booked the game.”