Owls Soar into the Playoffs

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Owls Soar into the Playoffs

Christian Squitieri

Christian Squitieri

Christian Squitieri

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The boys’ varsity basketball season has been quite memorable, to say the least. The Owls finished the regular season with a record of 17-2 (10-2 in conference), and as Conference A-IV champions, they also advanced to the county championship for the first time since 1989. The Owls, just like they have all season, have incredibly high expectations for themselves. “Honestly, I think we can go to [the state tournament],” commented star senior guard Rylan Blondo.

Blondo’s play this season was extraordinary, as he averaged 23.9 points per game, fourth-best in Nassau County and nearly top-10 on Long Island. To Head Coach Jamie Adams, this was hardly a surprise. “Rylan will do whatever it takes to bring his team success, and that says a lot about who he is and what he stands for.  It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to coach him these last four years.” Adams adds, “When your best player is your hardest worker, it makes coaching a lot easier.”

The team, however, was far from a one man show. The Owls’ starting five this season consisted of several combinations of players, mixing Blondo, along with fellow seniors James Montgomery, Dylan Herlihy, Brandon Pekale, John Donaldson, and Sean Barrett, as well as sophomore Thomas de Menenzes. Donaldson, who registered his 700th career point this season, has formed a deadly tandem with Montgomery, with the two accounting for more than 25 points per game for the Owls (averaging 12.9 and 14.2 points, respectively). Montgomery has also proved as a menacing presence on the boards, recording a double-double in 12 contests for the Owls. Coach Adams put it best: “James’ emergence as a force has helped us immensely. What James provides us at the position he plays is unique.”

The Owls’ bench also provides energy on the floor in the form of key role players Greg DeJoseph and Michael Frank, and encouragement and constant energy from the likes of Josh Blankstein, Joe Demonte, Lee McCoy, and Jonathan Cabral-Martin. “They are a real fun group to be around,” said Adams.

The Owls’ season was characterized by close wins, with the Owls often winning contests wire-to-wire. Memorable season highlights include home victories over Valley Stream South and Floral Park, who eliminated the Owls from the playoffs last season. The contest against Floral park on Jan. 11 was one of the Owls’ best all-around performances of the year. Montgomery led the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Blondo and Donaldson each poured in 15 points; Blondo also dished out 10 assists in the contest. Pekale had 11 points with three threes, and Herlihy scored nine. The Owls’ defense was fundamentally sound all game, helping achieve a 34-point victory. The Owls’ Jan. 19 game against Valley Stream South saw them avenge a loss earlier in the season. Montgomery finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Blondo added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Pekale also had 18 with 2 three-pointers, and Donaldson scored 10 in the 11-point victory.

Christian Squitieri

Wins such as these gave the Owls quite a bit of optimism. Adams explains how this team has exemplified the culture he has worked to build for the program: “I would say that the biggest factor in our team’s success this year is the culture we have created and camaraderie that we have. The word ‘Together’ is a program-wide belief. We do everything as a team, together. We win as a team; we lose as a team. [There is] no one more important than anyone else. I would also say the leadership that the seniors have provided has been outstanding. They lead by example, root for each other, and push each other to always work harder and get better.”

Adams also notes how this team distinguishes itself from others he has coached: “I would have to say the energy that they bring every day. They’ve taken what players from previous years like Frank Boni (‘16), Rob Sitonio (‘17), and Nick Tuzzio (‘17) exemplified and have really run with it. … Each and every one of them puts the team goals ahead of any personal goals he has, and I think it really shows.” Blondo shares his coaches’ ideology: “I think we all take it seriously and understand what it takes to be good. I’m in the gym with a lot of these guys, and we all prepared to have a successful season this year.”

The Owls began play as the second seed in the county tournament and started very strong. In the first round, the Owls took on Mepham, and the game was dominated by the Owls top three scorers as Blondo, Donaldson, and Montgomery combined for 52 points, more than Mepham scored all game. Blondo and Montgomery both had double-doubles in the 72-49 victory, adding 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively. The second round saw Lynbrook take on Jericho, and the Owls were locked in defensively all afternoon, only allowing 41 points to the visitors.  Montgomery led the way with yet another double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. The Owls went to SUNY Farmingdale to face Valley Stream South on Feb. 26. With a spot in the county championship on the line, the Owls played close with South for much of the contest until pulling away in the fourth quarter a quarter which they outscored the opponent by 12. Their defense was terrific all game only having 40 points scored against them, and Rylan Blondo delivered in a big way with 27 of the 51 Owls points. The County Championship which took place on March 3rd at Farmingdale saw the Owls take on Manhasset. Even with a valiant effort from Blondo, who had 18 points, the Owls ultimately fell short of the county title. Despite the disappointing ending, this years Owls team was one of the most dominant, and impressive in Lynbrook history.

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