The No. 8 South Side boys basketball team's county championship defense came to an end on Wednesday evening, as the Cyclones were defeated by the 12th-seeded Roslyn Bulldogs by a final score of 59-42 in the Nassau County Class A semifinal at SUNY Old Westbury.
The defending county champion Cyclones quickly became a favorite in the Class A tournament after upsetting top-seeded Lawrence in the quarterfinals last Tuesday, but struggled against Roslyn inside the paint Wednesday night.
The two teams traded baskets early in the contest, but a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first quarter from Roslyn’s Mark Gjonlekaj energized the Bulldogs and sent their fans into a frenzy, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
By halftime, South Side faced an insurmountable 14-point deficit.
“The effort in the first half was not very strong,” South Side Head Coach Jerry D’Angelo said. “We settled for a lot of outside jump shots. I thought we could have been more aggressive going to the basket and then we gave ourselves too big of a hole to make up.”
South Side showed signs of life in the second half, trimming Roslyn’s lead down to as few as 8 points midway through the fourth quarter at 49-41. However, the Cyclones comeback attempt was thwarted by the Bulldogs’ clutch free throw shooting, resulting in the 59-42 Roslyn victory.
Forward Paul Pandolfi led South Side with 16 points in the losing effort. Guard Gerald Mitchell added another 12 points to the Cyclones’ total.
Gjonlekaj scored a game-high 19 points for Roslyn, while guard Andrew Slutsky was second on the team in scoring with 15 points.
The Bulldogs now advance to the Nassau County Class A championship game on Saturday, where they will take on the winner of the other Class A semifinal between No. 2 Jericho and No. 11 Valley Stream South.
For South Side, the loss signaled the end of a season in which the team finished 9-8 with a 6-4 conference record.
“We graduated 10 kids from last year,” D’Angelo said. “No one picked us to go this far. The team had some ups and downs this year but I’m very proud of them.”
“A lot of young kids stepped it up throughout the whole season,” he added. “Our few returning players showed good leadership for us this year.”