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Elmont boys basketball has eyes on Nassau title with Jevon Santos, Isiah Barnes in backcourt

Jévon Santos, left, and Isiah Barnes, Elmont seniors,

Jévon Santos, left, and Isiah Barnes, Elmont seniors, pose for a portrait after boys basketball team practice at Elmont High School on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019.  Credit: James Escher

It will be the “J and Zay Show” for the Elmont boys basketball team this season.

Senior guards Jevon ‘J’ Santos and Isiah ‘Zay’ Barnes hope to get the Spartans back to the Nassau Class A championship game for the first time since 2017, when they won the title. (Santos played guard as a freshman on that team.) The last two seasons, Elmont has lost in the A semifinal game at Farmingdale State.

“That just makes us want to win more,” said Santos, who averaged 10 points and 8 assists per game as a junior. “In both games we had chance to win. We’re looking at this like we are one step away from getting back to finals where we should be.”

The duo has come a long way. Santos and Barnes started as competitors back on the blacktop courts of Dutch Broadway Elementary School.

“We were in different classes, so we always played against each other at recess,” Barnes said. “We pushed each other from a young age, and it has translated to where we are now.”

It hasn’t always been easy for Barnes, who really didn’t come into his own until last season when he averaged seven points and seven assists per contest. At times, Barnes struggled as a sophomore, but it was Santos who counseled him.

“He was a little frustrated with his minutes,” Santos recalled. “I kept telling him, ‘It’s going to come.’ ”

The two, who became close friends in middle school, now realize this is their last chance to win a title at Elmont. The Spartans will also rely on a pair of 6-3 forwards — Gus Louis and Jordan Lawson — and 6-foot guard Matthew Ward to help them in a competitive Class A.

“There’s a good tradition here,” Barnes said. “By seventh grade, you want to be a part of it. At times it’s almost overwhelming.”

What makes Santos and Barnes so tough is the fact that both players can play point guard or shooting guard.

“We are both so versatile. He runs (the point) one time, and I can the other time; we’re interchangeable,” Barnes said. “It doesn’t really matter who plays point guard. When we get the ball, we get into the flow of our regular motion offense.”

But one thing is for certain, according to Santos — the Spartans almost always get the opposition’s best effort.

“Our league and class should be really good again,” Santos said. “Every team wants to give us their best shot. Everybody wants to beat Elmont.”

Manhasset, the defending Nassau A champ, is one of the teams that wants to beat Elmont. The Indians graduated all five starters from their 2019 Long Island Class A championship team, but will count on talented sixth man Ahmad Crowell, who averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game a year ago. Coach George Bruns hopes senior Joe Busch, Connor Dunphy, Matt Donnell and Cole Zaffiro handle the transition from role players to starters this season.

Uniondale (2) and Baldwin (4) have combined to win six of the last seven titles in Class AA. Uniondale, the two-time defending Nassau AA champs, relies on a trio of seniors, including Jayden Freeman, Rashaun Gorham and Isaiah Joseph-Brock.

Baldwin hopes to continue a trend that dates back to 2008 — the Bruins have won a Nassau and Long Island AA crown every four years (2008, 2012, 2016). Can 6-4 senior forward Isiah Walker & Baldwin pull it off in 2020?

Defending Class B champ Cold Spring Harbor is led by Kip Dallaris (10 ppg, 3 apg, 2 rpg). The Seahawks will be challenged by Malverne, which looks to Michael Warren Jr. (16 ppg, 9 apg, 3 rpg).

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