In their rematch, the New Hyde Park Gladiators beat the Division Blue Dragons Friday night in the Conference A-I opener with a score of 60-40.
New Hyde Park had a week to think about their last game against Division High School in Levittown, which was a 69-50 loss in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. Their consolation prize? A rematch victory. New Hyde Park is now 3-2, while the Blue Dragons fall to 2-2.
Improved defensive intensity and the presence of Greg Simeon inside helped propel the Gladiators. It was too much Simeon for Division to handle. The senior center led all scorers with 24 points matched by 12 rebounds. Gladiators coach Don Rood says it was a big step for his big man.
"That's what we've been expecting of him," Rood said. "He has the potential to do that every night, I've been on him to play that way - high energy, high intensity, play with confidence."
Simeon's layups, and Division's cold shooting from the outside helped the Gladiators sprint to an 8-2 lead at the outset. The Dragons' Mike Longo stole a Gladiator inbound pass and hit a jumper as time expired in the first quarter to bring his team to within one.
The momentum didn't last. Simeon completed a three-point play and Faizal Hussein's three put New Hyde Park up by five with 28-23 at the half.
The Gladiators took complete control in the third. Adam Priest scored on a backdoor cut and Hussein made an uncontested layup off a steal to make it 47-33. Kevin Towey (9 points, 8 assists) and Joseph Justice hit from beyond the arc early in the fourth and the Gladiators cruised the rest of the way.
"We played our game tonight," Rood said of the turnaround from a week ago. "We have to push the ball and play hard defense. Today we played our game."
Hero: Greg Simeon. The senior center was a monster, notching 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Gladiators to victory. His presence on the offensive glass in particular gave his team second chances to score.
Turning Point: After Division's Ryan Birmingham tied the game with a three late in the second quarter, the Gladiator's Hussein hit one of his own to put his team up five at the break. Division never got any closer.
Quote: "I think we can compete with every team in our conference," Coach Rood said. "There's no reason why we can't compete for a playoff spot this year."
Bottom Line: Unlike last week's game, this time the Gladiators made their layups and their foul shots. It's about the fundamentals and enthusiasm. According to Division coach Tom Williams, his team didn't have them tonight and New Hyde Park did.
Key Stat: Two, as in the number of three-pointers made by Division, both by Ryan Birmingham. The Blue Dragons hit seven last week en route to victory. A few more tonight would have helped.
New Hyde Park: Greg Simeon 24
Faizal Hussein 12
Kevin Towey 9
Adam Priest 8
Division: Matt Nagelberg 15
Ryan Birmingham 12
Box Score:1 2 3 4 F New Hyde Park 11 17 19 13 60 Division 10 13 10 7 40
Who's Next: Tuesday, Dec. 21 @ Garden City, 7 p.m.