YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Rob Nardelli (17 points, 6 rebounds) and Jeffrey Owusu (16 points, 10 rebounds, 7 steals) led Lakeland (9-3, 4-0), to a League II-C victory, a 62-51 triumph, at crosstown rival Yorktown, on Friday, Jan. 17.
“Jeffrey played great tonight, with some big steals and fast-break points,” Nardelli said. “We come to practice every day and play hard, and we stepped up when top players were down.”
Those players were Augie Karaqi (13 points) and Jack Kruse, who were in foul trouble.
“Playing against Yorktown will always be a tough game and when two of our top guys get into foul trouble early, we needed some guys to step up and take charge,” Owusu said.
Standing out for Yorktown (4-8) was Eddie Brucaj (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Roni Brucaj (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 charges).
“Eddie did a good job battling for position inside the paint, and our guys were getting him the ball,” said Yorktown coach Mark Pavella. “Roni took five charges throughout the game, which really helped us stay close. Everyone played hard until the end.”
Yorktown got the jump on the Hornets, going up 11-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“We were able to accomplish that because they were a great three-point shooting team, so we limited their threes and offensively, we decided to play more in the paint, since we had the height advantage,” Eddie Brucaj said.
Yorktown continued to play solid ball in the second quarter, and was up 26-25 at halftime.
“We played hard in the first half, and were able to get the ball inside,” Pavella said. “We also executed on defense.”
On the other side, Lakeland was confident as they went into halftime.
“While at half, we knew we had a tough challenge against our crosstown rivals,” Nardelli said. “We had good looks at the basket and knew shots would fall eventually. We also needed to continue to play intense defense.”
Lakeland’s shots did indeed fall in the third quarter, where they outscored the Huskers, 20-14, which gave them a 45-40 advantage at the end of the quarter.
“Our offense started to play better and our defense forced turnovers,” Lakeland coach Steve Fallo said of his team’s third-quarter play.
Lakeland cemented their win in the final stanza, when they outscored Yorktown, 17-11.
“Our defense played a huge role late in the game; we also got steals and stops that sealed the deal for us,” Owusu said.
Fallo was pleased to see his team turn it around offensively in the second half.
“We got off to a slow start offensively, missing open shots, and free throws, but our defense played very well throughout the game,” Fallo said. “We had several steals that led to easy baskets.”
As for Yorktown, Eddie Brucaj credited his scoring success to his teammates.
“Our game plan offensively was to get the ball in the post, since we had the height advantage, so my team trusted me, and kept feeding me down low in the post,” Eddie Brucaj said.
Lakeland played two other games during the week, including a 75-34 triumph against visiting Brewster on Jan. 15, that saw all 10 Hornets players score.
“We played great team basketball, with ball movement, and defense was the key to that win,” Karaqi said.
Karaqi led the Hornets to the win with 25 points, including 5 three pointers.
“After a tough loss to Lourdes last Saturday, I knew I had to bounce back,” Karaqi said.
Kruse (11 points), Aidan Welcome (8 points) and James Apostolou (8 points), also contributed to the victory against Brewster.
Lakeland finished the week with a 70-58 win against visiting Hendrick Hudson on Jan. 18, led by Nardelli (24 points, 8 rebounds), Karaqi (23 points), Kruse (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Owusu (7 points).