All the other teams in Nassau A-I are looking up at the Gladiators from New Hyde Park. They have a 20/20 focus on claiming the conference title.
They took another step Wednesday night on their home court, beating Great Neck North, 56-42, behind a balanced attack led by Arsh Singh’s 11 points and a dominating defensive effort that left D-I prospect Luke Cronin with no points.
The first-place Gladiators improved to 5-1 in A-I and 6-5 overall. They’re 4-1 in their last five.
"They’ve just been coming in from Day 1 and working their butt off," coach Ben Krauz said. "I had a lot of these guys for football [as an assistant]. They learned how I coach. If you just go hard, good things will happen. They really bought into that, and they’re just living it every day."
Cronin saw how tough the Gladiators' defense can be.
New Hyde Park doubled the 6-6 junior center when the ball came into the low post.
"Our two guys in the middle have got to make sure we control the paint," Krauz said of the mantra for Amal Kayani and Sireen Brown.
At the other end, Cronin blocked six shots. He’s averaging 9.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
"We’ve got to find a way to get him some easy finishes inside," GNN coach Kevin Graham said.
Graham listed Cronin's strengths: "I just think his length; his basketball IQ; he rebounds and blocks shots very well; and he really does have a good midrange game."
Cronin said he has an offer from Manhattan. Northwestern, Miami and Tulane have also expressed interest. He wants to commit "by the end of my junior year going into my senior year."
He’s impressed by Northwestern. "I really like their school academically as well as athletically," Cronin said. "We’ll see from there . . . I want to go to a school that has good academics and also wants to play really good basketball."
The Blazers (4-9, 3-4), who were paced by Jared Ohebshalom’s 10 points, jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Then the game turned around after a 12-1 Gladiators run to close the opening quarter.
Isaiah Alix hit consecutive jumpers, making it 24-9 with 1:34 left until the break.
In the third, Brandon Thomas buried two threes. When Francesco Mangione made another, the margin moved to 20 at 39-19. The Gladiators upped their lead to 26 in the fourth.