The Mineola varsity boys basketball team carried a 1-1 record into play in the 5th annual Coaches Vs. Cancer tournament at Herricks High School.
In the first round of the event, the Mustangs and Carle Place renewed their long rivalry. Despite coming in 0-2, the Frogs broke out of their shooting slump.
After scoring only 31 points in the previous game, Carle Place broke out with a 25-point first quarter against Mineola. "The team played lackluster defense and the 22 press, which was so successful in the past two games, was virtually non-existent," said Mustang coach Scott Donnellan.
The Mustangs shot only 25 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line while Carle Place was hitting 80 percent of its shots, winning 62-47.
Jerelle Harrison provided the only bright spot for Mineola. He scored 19 points and had 11 steals.
In the consolation game of the tournament, Mineola faced New Hyde Park for the second time in a week. After jumping out to a 21-5 lead, the Mustangs went ice cold. New Hyde Park closed the gap and ended up trailing only 22-20 in the second half. But junior Sean Baily gave Mineola a big lift, scoring 11 of his points and helping the Mustangs to a 45-36 win. Also standing out for the Mustangs were Tom Owens, who scored 12 points on four 3-point shots, and Harrison, who earned his second All-Tournament award, averaging 14 points, 9 steals and 5 assists.
Playing in its third tournament of the non-conference season, Mineola went to Seaford for the Rocco Valvano Holiday Tournament and beat Cold Spring Harbor 52-34 in the first round. Richie Carter had his best game of the season, scoring 11 points. Sean Bailey led the way with a career high 16 points and 15 rebounds, also a career high. The Mustang press forced Cold Spring Harbor into 25 turnovers.
In the tournament finals, Glenn High School scorched Mineola by 30 points, 70-40. "Although Glenn was probably the better team, the score does not show the true story. If we hit a few shots, we might have been able to pull this one out," said coach Donnellan.
Mineola finished the non-conference portion of its schedule 3-3. "It's not a bad way to end the non-league schedule, especially when you consider the fact that this group or juniors has gone 6-33 in their high school careers," the coach said.
Looking ahead to Conference A-III play, the season is not expected to be an easy one. Coach Donnellan pointed to problems scoring that could hurt the Mustangs. "It's virtually impossible to win a game on the varsity level while scoring 40 points. Two questions come to mind when thinking of the team's prospects - which team will show up and do the Mustangs have what it takes to make a run at it? Only time will tell," he said.
The other members of the conference are Floral Park, Roosevelt, Island Trees, Bethpage, Bellmore JFK and Valley Stream South. The favorites in the league are Floral Park and Roosevelt. Four of the seven teams will make the playoffs. Here's how coach Donnellan characterized the other teams in the league:
Floral Park - Return everyone from a 12-2 team last year, including four-year starter and two-time All-County player Ryan Freely.
Roosevelt - Coming off a 5-1 non-conference mark and a 20-point win over Floral Park in their conference opener. All indications are the Rough Riders are back after a three-year absence from the playoffs.
Bethpage - The football and lacrosse winning attitude has been trickling into the basketball program and has made the team a force over the past four years. Point guard Jordan Levine averaged 19 points per game in non-league play.
Island Trees - Always a tough team with hard nosed, scrappy players. They are led by Justin Salvage.
Bellmore JFK - Always fun to play JFK with Mineola High School teacher Rory Block as the head coach of this hard working team. They have All-County guard and potential player of the year Dave Tener back this season.
Valley Stream North - A new coach and returning All-Conference player Anthony Forgione has people believing this team is the best they've had in recent season.
The Mustangs opened their conference schedule by splitting the first two games. Mineola got pasted in the opener, losing 74-40 to Bethpage. Despite a poor performance by the team, the coach pointed out that Mike DeStefano and Derek Webber played with a lot of hustle and heart.
Mineola evened its record with a 57-49 win at Valley Stream North. The Mustangs opened the game with a 6-0 lead on a pair of Tom Owens 3-pointers and kept the lead for the entire first half, going into the locker room up by 4 points at the break.
North came out strong in the third quarter though and owned a three point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Mineola was down seven with three minutes to play, but Jerelle Harrison and Mike DeStefano led the way. Harrison scored 8 points in the quarter and DeStefano scored 4, including the bucket that put Mineola ahead 46-45 with 38 seconds left.
North would hit a jumper at the buzzer to force overtime during which the Mustangs outscored the hometown Spartans 10-2 for the win. DeStefano added four more points in overtime and finished with a career high 12 points. Harrison finished with a team leading 21 points. Kevin Franciotti worked hard on both ends of the floor and continued to do the dirty work.