Northport's Tigers Are Hungry To Win

Northport’s controlled passing is a key strategy. Here, Jake Santamaria (20) passes to a teammate.  Photo/Andrew D’Eloia

Northport’s controlled passing is a key strategy. Here, Jake Santamaria (20) passes to a teammate. Photo/Andrew D’Eloia

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

For the Northport boys varsity basketball team, it’s all about staying focused on what matters, working together as a collective to achieve victory.

The Tigers have come to the court fiercely this season, amassing a 7-3 overall record. At their most recent game against Lindenhurst on Jan. 7, the boys found themselves victorious, 61-42. Head coach Andrew D’Eloia feels the team has a lot of young talent who have grown into their roles.

“We’ve gotten better as the season’s progressed and at the halfway mark, we are very happy with where we are,” D’Eloia said.

The team is 4-2 in League II, a league that D’Eloia finds “very competitive” this year. Going into their game against Connetquot on Jan. 9, who is 5-1 in League II, the players were prepared for a challenge.

Evan Kelly (14) shoots from the corner for three.  Photo/Andrew D’Eloia

Evan Kelly (14) shoots from the corner for three. Photo/Andrew D’Eloia

 “Our league is so competitive that we legitimately do not look ahead,” D’Eloia said. “On any given night, in League II basketball, any team could beat any other team.”

D’Eloia attributes his team’s accomplishments to the synergy among his players, the hard work they put in during the offseason and their cohesiveness during plays.

“We have a style of play that has been a successful formula over the years,” D’Eloia said. “We play unselfish basketball on the offensive end and we typically mix up and have pride in our defense.”

This formula has helped D’Eloia to establish a baseline plan that can be tweaked based on players’ abilities and styles. When the team is on offense, they will pass to each other often to ensure a shot is made.

“We make the extra pass to get a great shot, instead of just a good shot,” D’Eloia said. “I don’t think the individuals on our team care who gets the point, it’s a matter of what the defense is giving us.”

This quick passing allows the Tigers to score.

Senior Ian Melamerson, their “big man”, has had an outstanding season so far, standing out as an asset for rebounds. He averages 13 points a game and gets to the foul line often.

Junior guard Sean Walsh is their leading scorer, averaging 17 points. This season he has learned to become a “complete” player that improves the team overall. Sophomore Pat Healy, has stepped up a starter, doing a great job handling the ball and averaging 13 points a game.

D’Eloia does not have any captains on the team, instead he gives the duty of leadership to every player.

“We use the term ‘collective responsibility’, so everyone is a leader,” D’Eloia said.

This is D’Eloia’s seventh year as head coach for Northport. Before that, he volunteered as an assistant coach for Northport, coached at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn and was an assistant coach at Hunter College in Manhattan. During his time at Hunter, he coached under Shay Berry, who coached in the Ivy Leagues for 17 years.

“I learned a tremendous amount from him, in terms of how Ivy League basketball is played,” D’Eloia said. “I implement a lot of the tactics and strategies from the practice planning, player development and scouting I did during that time. It was definitely a helpful experience in my coaching development.”

After finishing their 11th game, the Tigers only have nine games left in their regular season to bring their hard work and passion to the court. Looking ahead, the coaches have preached to their players that the most important game is the next one they play. If they begin to look forward to certain games, the team could lose focus on their present challenge and slip up.

“Every game is important,” D’Eloia said. “We only play 20 games this season, if you start looking ahead to any other game than the one you’re going to play, you lose.”

The team’s goal every year is to make it to playoffs and compete for a chance at the league title. In such a competitive league, the upcoming games are important.

“Every team in the league pretty much has 10 more games left, so a lot can happen,” D’Eloia said. “We just gotta stay focused, do our best and try to win as many as possible.”

The team will face Smithtown West on Jan. 11 and Copiague at home on Jan. 14.