The Saint Aloysius seventh-grade basketball team, from Great Neck, is currently in first place in division A of the CYO Basketball League. Their record was pushed to 8 and 1 this past Friday evening at the South Middle School. In a game that was as intense as a local high school rivalry, the Phantoms recorded an unbelievable one point victory over St. Bernard's of Levittown with a buzzer beating shot.
The game was close throughout. The Phantoms led 32-28 at the half, as they had harassed their opponents with their signature full court press and fast break, up tempo offense during the half. With Josh Cohen dominating the inside and Ian Handsman and Joel Lefkowitz hitting from the perimeter the team was able to stay ahead of their opponent who had three players with a very strong physical style of play in the paint.
The momentum changed in the third quarter as St. Bernard's outscored the Phantoms by 6, to take a 2 point lead going into the final quarter, 39-37. Their margin would have been greater, except for the fine play of Jordan Sadowsky of St. Al's. He continually drove hard to the basket forcing St. Bernard's to foul on many occasions. A couple of key steals and heads up plays by Jason Sylvan in the period also assisted in keeping the game close for the Phantoms.
The fourth quarter was exciting as the lead changed hands several times. With key baskets and a free throw by Ryan Losee, stellar defense and rebounding by Perry Fallick the game came down to a thrilling final minute. With the Phantoms up by 3, Fallick was called for his fifth foul with 52 seconds left. On a fine defensive effort, the call could have gone either way. St. Bernard's converted from the line to cut the deficit to one. The Phantoms controlled the ball as they were repeatedly fouled by St. Bernard's who had fouls to give. Finally with 11 seconds remaining Lefkowitz went to the line with a 1 and 1 for the Phantoms. He missed the front end. St. Bernard's rushed the ball up court, ran a beautiful pick and roll and went ahead by 1 with only three seconds remaining. St. Al's called their final time out. Coaches Rusty Sylvan and Glen Darnell designed the play in the huddle. Lefkowitz took the ball out under the basket. However, the designed play could not work. Lefkowitz spotted Cohen way down court, he threw a 3/4 court football-type pass to Cohen, who made a great catch while being covered; he took 3 dribbles to the hoop, went strong to the basket and laid it in while being fouled at the buzzer for the victory! He finished with 23 points, including 8 in the final quarter to lead the Phantoms to a 50-49 wild victory.
The Phantoms have been together for four seasons and now compete in the strongest CYO division. Their new aggressive style of play implemented by Head Coach Sylvan and assistant Darnell have surprised many of their opponents. Many of the nine games have been close, but the point of the team including Adam Klein and David Kimbie who supply valuable minutes and effort off the bench has contributed to their success.
The improvement of the team can also be traced to another team. The Phantoms have been practicing with the Panthers of St. Albans in Queens under the supervision of Coach Jose Modesto on many occasions. The combined practice sessions and scrimmages have benefited the Phantoms tremendously and further emphasized their new fast paced approach.