Oceanside responded to a pair of close league losses to stay within range of reaching the Class AA boys’ basketball playoffs for a second straight season.
The Sailors began the New Year on Jan. 3 with a heartbreaking 61-59 overtime defeat to Freeport after the Red Devils tied the game with two three-pointers in the final 34 seconds of regulation. Two days later the Sailors went toe-to-toe with unbeaten Uniondale before falling 59-55. A third straight league loss then put Oceanside at two games under. 500 in Conference AA-1 before the Sailors snapped the losing streak with a key 71-58 league win against Massapequa last Saturday.
“We definitely have a lot of work ahead if we want to get to where we are capable of,” Oceanside head coach Joe Supple said. “We’re improving every single day.”
Oceanside entered this week at 2-3 in conference play with six games remaining. The Sailors can reach the postseason by placing among the top four in the league or finishing with at least a .500 record.
“We’re still very much in the mix,” Supple said. “We’re going to keep working and competing every day.”
The Sailors began league play on a positive note with a dramatic 51-50 win at Syosset on Dec. 21 in which Ralph Amitrano scored the game-winning layup at the buzzer off a pass from Cesario Cesar. The winning basket capped off a big day for the duo with Amitrano tallying 14 points and Cesar scoring 13 to go along with nine rebounds.
“They executed a great play down the stretch,” said Supple of Amitrano and Cesar. “It was exciting.”
Senior forward Brian Pod has led the charge this season as a floor leader and become a threat from the perimeter. In the Massapequa victory Saturday, Pod nearly registered a double double with 25 points and nine rebounds. He also tallied 15 points during a 56-48 win against West Hempstead in the third place game of Malverne Tournament on Dec. 29.
“He is our leader on and off the court,” said Supple of Pod. “He sets the tone.”
Pod is among a sleigh of scoring threats that includes Cesar, Amitrano and swingman Dimitri Garrett that have all shown offensives flashes on the young season. Cesar had a season-high 22 points in the Freeport heartbreaker while Amitrano registered 20 in the West Hempstead victory. Garrett was Oceanside’s leading scorer in a 71-43 loss to Farmingdale on Jan. 9.
“What we’re looking for is that consistency,” Supple said. “We haven’t had that consistency where they all play well on the same night.”
After a road game at Hempstead, Oceanside has an 11-day layoff during midterm exams before returning home for a rematch against Syosset on Jan. 26 at noon. The Sailors will then have two crucial road games at Freeport on Jan. 29 and Uniondale on Jan. 31.
“We’re trying to get them to do the little things that don’t show up in the box score,” Supple said. “We’re going to keep working and competing every day.”