BY LARRY FLEISHER
It’s approaching 5 p.m. on Dec. 18, and Bayside is minutes away from facing off against Cardozo. Students line up in the small entrance to the school near Corporal Kennedy Street in anticipation of a big game and upon entering the tiny gym, they’re greeted with blaring music, creating the feel of a college environment.
The noisy atmosphere continues as Bayside scores the first six points, takes leads of 9-3 and leads for most of the first quarter. It stays loud as Bayside stays close with the Judges and trails by six at halftime, but then the noise dims as Cardozo scores the first 12 points of the second half and leads by 24 going into the fourth quarter.
Eventually Cardozo went onto an 88-45 victory that is a reflection of the defending champions’ ability to dominate and the inconsistencies of the Commodores. Bayside has been a playoff team the previous three seasons, has gone 32-10 in league play in that span and knocked off Cardozo on Dec. 18, 2012 — but this year the team remains a few steps below its neighborhood rival.
“Basically we’re knocking on the door for the top teams and we’re right there,” senior guard Ryniek Holloway said. “Just baby steps and we’re going to get to the point where we want to be at the end of the season. For now it’s just a learning experience.”
The team is learning about how to cope when opposing defenses take away Holloway and Daniel Hernandez as options. Through his first six games, Holloway averaged 21 points and seven assists while Hernandez averaged 19 points.
Against Cardozo, Holloway scored eight of Bayside’s first 20 points, and the rest of his points were scored when it was too late for a comeback. Hernandez finished well below his scoring average after getting 33 and eight rebounds on Dec. 16 against High School of Construction. It is also proof of second-year coach Steven Scharf’s description of his team, especially on a day when the Commodores can’t get another option going offensively.
“Developing,” Scharf said. “I’d say we’re a team that can be good one day, good one quarter, bad one quarter, good one possession and bad one possession.”
Through seven league games, Bayside is 4-3 and tied for second place with Queens High School of Teaching, which it faced on Dec. 22. So far Bayside has wins over Van Buren, Flushing, Edison and Beach Channel, and its fourth win came after facing an eight-point deficit through the first eight minutes. When they’re not playing games, the Commodores are fine-tuning their game with lengthy practices. The idea is that when January and February show up, some of those things that are stunting the development are over with.
“It’s only December,” Holloway said. “We’re still learning and we’re a young team. I just feel like by January, February, we’ll be ready. We have plenty of time to be ready and all those little things we’ll fix.”
And asked what those little things are, Holloway was quick to point them out.
“Just little things like free throws, rebounding and just the mental toughness and the mental aspect of the game. We have to make those big shots. Basically, we just have to make those clutch plays.” Scharf and the Commodores will visit Cardozo on Jan. 30. By then they will have played 18 games and Scharf is confident the showing will be better the next time his team takes on the defending champions.
“A way better performance than you saw today — guaranteed,” he said.
NBA teams and players are fond of talking about learning and developing when trying to learn the system of meshing with a new group and coach. While it’s not as complex as the Knicks attempting to learn the triangle or the Nets trying to learn the motion offense of new coach Lionel Hollins, it’s a similar concept for Bayside.
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