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Elmont, LI Lutheran vie for state Federation titles

Elmont's Travis Robinson-Morgan, center, starts a break away

Elmont's Travis Robinson-Morgan, center, starts a break away from Troy's Darius Holmes-Hines, right, and Brandon Holmes during the Class A final at the 2016 NYSPHSAA Boys Basketball Championships held at the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, N.Y. on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Credit: Adrian Kraus

Elmont’s boys basketball team has played seven elimination games entering this weekend’s state Federation Tournament of Champions. Long Island Lutheran’s boys team has played . . . none.

But that’s March Madness around here, where the public schools have a month’s worth of pressure-packed games to reach the state or Federation level and an independent school such as Lutheran, with no league affiliation, only plays for a championship on the last weekend of the season.

Both teams hope to play two games at the Times-Union Center in Albany.

Boys Class A Semifinals, Friday, 9 a.m.

Elmont (23-3) vs. High School of Telecommunications (27-3)

Elmont has already won the program’s first Long Island and state championships, so the season has been a huge success. But that doesn’t mean the focus is any less sharp. “We’re still treating this like a business trip,” Spartans coach George Holub said. “A lot of people have been coming up to us after last week, but my kids aren’t walking around with their heads out to the moon. We know we have to keep our poise for another weekend.”

Elmont must continue to play its tenacious zone that has fueled a 13-game winning streak. The Spartans are led by guard Travis Robinson-Morgan (17.5 points per game), also the team’s leader in steals. Jalen Burgess, a hot shooter in the postseason, and shot-blocking machine K.C. Ndefo also will be keys against Telecom, which upset top-seeded Frederick Douglass, 54-51, to win the PSAL championship.

The Yellow Jackets are led by forward Devin Ballou (17 ppg, 8 rebounds per game) and quick point guard Bryce Little Kahn (11.5 ppg, 4.5 assists per game). “We can’t have it be a track meet. That would be a mistake,” Holub said.

The winner plays for the Federation championship on Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Albany Academy-Canisius winner.

Boys Class AA Semifinals, Friday, 9 p.m.

L.I. Lutheran (22-3) vs. Jefferson (23-9)

The Crusaders haven’t played in close to a month, and to keep his team sharp, coach John Buck scheduled scrimmages against Albany Academy, Collegiate and Harborfields. “We finally know our opponent and we’ve been focused in practice,” Buck said. “We only lost one game since the New Year and that was to Christ the King on their home court on Senior Night.”

Lutheran, which hasn’t played since Feb. 20, is led by Indiana-bound guard Devonte Green, who averages 21 points per game. Athletic forward Charles Manning averages 14 points and was hot down the stretch. Sophomore Donatas Kupsas (13.5 ppg) is an inside force.

“Our best stretch of the year was mid-to-late January when we beat Cardozo and Sacred Heart,” Buck said. “We’re very talented and we’re ready.”

They’ll have to be against Jefferson, which defeated Lincoln, 90-61, at Madison Square Garden for its first PSAL title since 1954. The Orange Wave is led by St. John’s-bound Shamorie Ponds (28 ppg) and St. Francis (N.Y.)-bound Raheem Dunn (18 ppg). Buck called Ponds “one of the most electric scorers in the state.”

The winner plays for the Federation championship on Saturday night at 9 o’clock against the Aquinas-Xaverian winner.

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