After graduating all five starters and other key members of last year’s Nassau and Long Island Class AA boys’ basketball championship team, Baldwin coach Darius Burton knew it would take some time for the new pieces to mesh.
Last Friday night, the Bruins displayed some of the same balance, depth, unselfishness and chemistry that paved the way to 19 wins and the aforementioned titles a season ago. They knocked off visiting Valley Stream Central, 65-53, as five players scored at least eight points, three had at least five assists, and three contributed at least five rebounds.
“We brought back only one player who got a bunch of minutes last season, so I knew we’d be a work in progress,” Burton said of senior forward Jordan Williams, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. “We’re not there yet, but I can see we’re getting better every day. We just beat a very good and
Seniors Travais Hylton and Eric Mack had 13 points apiece to pace the Bruins, who improved to 3-1 in Conference AA-II and 5-1 overall. Senior Jonathan Grimsley scored a game-high 19 points for the Eagles (1-2, 3-4), who erased an early 13-point hole but trailed most of the way.
“When you play Baldwin, you’ve got to be able to handle their pressure because they’re constantly coming at you,” VSC coach Hayward Alfred said. “We had too many turnovers early in the game, but I thought we
competed and played hard.”
Baldwin, which had its 36-game conference winning streak snapped by Hicksville a few weeks back, raced to an 18-5 lead in the first quarter as Mack (six), Williams (four) and senior Elijah McMillan (four) combined for 14 points.
Alfred burned a pair of timeouts in an attempt to settle the Eagles down, and they responded. Grimsley scored three straight baskets — two to close the opening quarter and one to start the second — to spark a 14-point run that turned what had the early look of a blowout into a 19-18 lead. Junior Kevin Blocker (10 points) was instrumental in the spurt as well, nailing a pair of treys and threading the needle for an assist on senior Lwimba Mukuka’s layup.
Baldwin regained the lead on a short jumper by Mack and controlled the rest of the second quarter to take a 30-21 halftime lead. Junior Dan Nwalor provided a huge spark off the bench, scoring all eight of his points in a span of three minutes, while the Eagles squandered numerous opportunities to stay close from the foul line. For the game, Central shot 5-for-16 from the line, while the Bruins sank 17 of 23.
Senior Michael Butler, a smooth-shooting lefty, ignited Baldwin’s offense late in the third quarter to keep the Eagles from making a run. Butler nailed a pair of shots from behind the arc and scored all eight of his points in the second half.
It was career win No. 202 for Burton. “We might not have a superstar this season, but we’ve still got talent.” he said.