Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 08 March 2013 00:00
In their two previous encounters, the Roslyn Bulldogs couldn’t solve their archrivals, Jericho High School and last Saturday’s Nassau County Conference A-I championship game was no different as the Bulldogs fell, 62-45, ending a terrific season in which Roslyn compiled a superlative 15-5 record overall and an 8-3 mark in conference play.
In the title game, played at Hofstra University, the Bulldogs grabbed an early lead, but were unable to overcome Jericho’s superior height inside. Jericho often had more than one shot on the offensive end, while generally holding the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense to only one shot on the defensive side. In addition, the Roslyn offense ran cold as the Bulldogs were unable to get star center Mark Gjonlekaj involved in the attack. Jericho held a 20-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs stayed in the game as Jericho had its own cold streak in the second quarter. Back-to-back baskets by Gjonlekaj pulled Roslyn to within six points and a three-point basket by Harris Silverstein got the Jericho advantage down to 24-19, while also getting the large Roslyn cheering section back in the game. However, that same play also saw an offensive foul by a Roslyn player. The round of free throws extended the Jericho lead, which stood at 29-19 at halftime.
In the third quarter, senior Terrence Pierce, playing in what would be his final game, took charge of the Roslyn offense, scoring the bulk of his 15 points. With a lead and an advantage in height, Jericho had the luxury of playing an aggressive game on defense, sending Roslyn players to the free throw line all throughout the second half. Too often, the Bulldogs failed on the front end of a two-shot foul. “We’d only be six points down if we had hit all our free throws,” one fan in the cheering section said as Jericho maintained a double-digit lead in the final frame.
In addition to Pierce’s 15 points, Mark Gjonlekaj, also playing in the final game of a prolific career, scored 10 points, while Silverstein scored eight points. For Jericho, Garrett Johnson led four players in double digits with 16 points.
The Bulldogs cruised into the finals on the heels of an easy 59-42 win over South Side. Roslyn pulled out to a 16-9 first quarter lead and then repeated that exact same score in the second quarter for a comfortable 32-18 halftime lead. South Side made a minor comeback in the third quarter, but Roslyn was never threatened. The South Side defense had no more luck than other squads in containing Mark Gjonlekaj. The senior center scored 19 points, while pulling down eight rebounds with three blocked shots. Three of Mark’s buckets came from regulation field goals, while the big man had two three-point scores. South Side’s collapsing defense resulted in numerous fouls and Gjonlekaj added seven points from the free throw line. Andrew Slutsky and Terrence Pierce also had two three-pointers apiece as both scored in double digits. Ben Rashbaum, who was one of the big stars of the quarterfinal win over Mineola added eight points on four field goals.
The great mystery is how such a great team received such a low ranking. The Bulldogs probably didn’t need the motivation, but it had to stick in their craw that they were ranked below teams they clearly were superior to.