Garden City shifted into cruise control a little early against Elmont and almost careened out of control.
The host Trojans, one of only four undefeated boys basketball teams in Nassau County, saw a 26-point third-quarter lead sliced to five with 1:45 left, but a key steal by Kevin McNiff allowed them to survive Wednesday night’s Nassau A-I clash, 47-43.
“A win’s a win, but they made it tough for us,” said Garden City’s Andrew DeSantis, who scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half and also contributed seven assists and five rebounds.
Elmont (4-1) rallied by using a trapping zone defense that caused turnovers and sparked a 17-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and cut a 43-17 deficit to 43-34 with five minutes left.
“They’re very good, very athletic,” Garden City coach Jim Hegmann said. “They move, they rotate and they make it tough to drive the lane.”
That wasn’t the case in the first half when Garden City (4-0 in league, 9-0 overall) dominated. DeSantis scored nine straight points, including a three-pointer from the wing and a crowd-pleasing coast-to-coast conventional three-point play on which he dribbled through traffic, finished with an acrobatic lefty flip and converted the ensuing free throw.
“He does it all for us,” Hegmann said of DeSantis, who is averaging 26 points per game. “You see his motor. He just doesn’t stop. He can go inside or outside. Everyone else follows that. It’s definitely contagious.”
The Trojans shared the ball well in building their big lead and got a major contribution from Matt Granville, who notched a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds).
Jevon Santos led Elmont with 13 points, eight in the frantic fourth quarter. Jaiyetoro Gordon-Younge scored all eight of his points in the second half. Victor Olawoye added seven points and was a demon on defense.
“Victor is the best defensive player I have to go against,” DeSantis said. “It’s all about momentum. We had it and they got it. They’re talented on defense. We started to force some shots in the second half.”
Garden City did not score for 6:13 and if the Spartans hadn’t missed six free throws in the fourth quarter, the Trojans might not have hung on. Jordan Lawson nailed a three-pointer on a nice kick-out pass from Olawoye to make it 45-40, and Olawoye forced a turnover. But McNiff stepped into the passing lane on a two-on-one break to get the ball back for the Trojans.
Seconds later, Tyler Soutar scored from down low and after both teams missed two free throws, Santos hit a trey at the buzzer.
“We got conservative and you can’t do that against a good team like Elmont with its pressure defense,” Hegmann said. “We usually finish strong.”