Center Moriches has been one of the behemoths of Long Island boys basketball this season. The Red Devils have excelled in league play and also have beaten every bigger public school and parochial school they played — but that run ended Sunday, courtesy of Elmont.
The Spartans turned in their best game of the season and took out Long Island’s last remaining unbeaten team with a sparkling performance in a 66-51 victory at the Richard Brown Nassau-Suffolk Challenge at Uniondale.
“We knew every team is beatable,” Elmont senior guard Isiah Barnes said after his team broke open a close game with a 24-2 run. “We’ve been building toward something like this and it’s like we’ve hit our stride. We keep getting better and better.”
It took five players scoring in double figures, a complete change of strategy and the help of a little foul trouble for Elmont (8-5) to pull off the feat.
Barnes had 17 points and five assists, Gus Louis scored 14 points and Jayden Rayford had 11 points, including three big three-pointers.
Jévon Santos added 10 points, seven assists and four steals and Jordan Lawson scored 10 points for Elmont, which beat defending Long Island Class A champion Manhasset the night before.
Elmont coach George Holub said the original strategy for the game was to try to speed up the Red Devils (12-1). Based on the first quarter, though, he said, “We saw we couldn’t do it because they play as fast or faster than we do. So we changed it up to rely on playing half-court.”
Center Moriches led by as much as eight points in the second quarter, but with pull-up jumpers and a couple of transition baskets off turnovers, Elmont grabbed a 29-28 halftime lead.
With Center Moriches leading 38-32, the entire landscape of the game changed when Barnes scored on a putback with 4:19 left in the third quarter and drew a fourth foul on Red Devils star point guard Ahkee Anderson, sending him to the bench. Beginning with that three-point play, Elmont scored 24 of the next 26 points while Anderson sat.
“They looked a little uncomfortable playing without him,” Santos said. “But that was when we had the advantage.”
Rayford had all of his three-pointers in that run, the last for a 56-40 lead with 6:10 to play.
Jaden Kealey finished with 12 points for the Red Devils.
Like Center Moriches, Class A Elmont challenged itself with a non-conference schedule that included games against Class AA forces Smithtown West and Uniondale as well as Catholic schools Chaminade and St. Dominic. Those are four of the Spartans’ losses.
“The idea is that by playing a brutal schedule, you make yourself better and better,” Holub said. “Eventually you do and you see you can compete and things take off from there.”