Boys basketball works towards playoffs

Senior+Xavier+Merriweather+attempts+a+jump+shot+in+a+game+against+East+Meadow+on+Jan.+10.+The+Vikings+won+the+game+64-54.

Sean Lui

Senior Xavier Merriweather attempts a jump shot in a game against East Meadow on Jan. 10. The Vikings won the game 64-54.

Matt Levine and Justin Suzzan

One of the most exciting teams so far this winter season has been the boys varsity basketball team. With many talented players, the Vikings are entering 2017 with an overall record of 6-5. The team has also taken home first prize in two tournaments so far this season.

Port’s first game was against non-conference opponent Massapequa High School on Dec. 7. The Vikings played a tough game, but the team ended up losing to Massapequa 57-63. In the game, senior point guard Xavier Merriweather finished with a game high of 29 points.

Schreiber then looked at their upcoming tournament as a chance to rebound from their loss. They took it as an opportunity to work on what they had to improve upon to make sure that they were ready for their normal schedule.

“We love when we have tournaments because they let us work on our games in a competitive way against other teams,” said senior Rob Konoff. “We really entered our first tournament with the mentality of improving as a team.”

The Vikings first tournament of the year was the Arnie Sims and Frits Muller Tournament held at Manhasset High School on Dec. 9 and 10. The team defeated West Hempstead 63-52 to advance to the finals. Merriweather had 23 points in the contest while senior Evan Goldstein also contributed to the team’s offense scoring nine points. Junior Daniel Dash also put up eight points in the win.

In the title game, the Vikings took on Manhasset and they put on an overwhelming display against the host school. Port defeated Manhasset by a score of 70-53 after trailing by ten points for much of the early points of the game. Merriweather once again led the Vikings to victory as he finished with an impressive 37 points and fourteen rebounds. Senior Jake Block also put up nine points for the Vikings in the game.

“Winning our first tournament made us more confident in the beginning of the season,” said junior Conor Shanahan. “A lot of different guys were able to play and contribute to our win also.”

This tournament provided some great experience and practice for Port as they entered into their conference games. The Vikings hosted Plainview High School on Dec. 20 as their Nassau County AA-II opener. Port won the exciting game 74-59 behind both Merriweather’s 26 points and Goldstein’s 12 points. Shanahan and Dash also had good games as they contributed nine and eight points to the team’s winning effort each.

Two days later, the Vikings took on top ranked Baldwin High School. Baldwin is always known for having a strong team and this year was no exception to that trend. The Vikings offense was extremely limited the entire night, and Baldwin defeated the team 62-36.

The Vikings understand that although they have a good team, there will occasionally be times early in their season where they will have to learn from their mistakes. As the season goes on, they know that they will only continue to improve.

“Baldwin is a great team and we really had trouble getting our offense going against them,” said Konoff. “Right now we can only focus on getting better for our upcoming games and tournaments.”

The Vikings got their shot at improvement during the Hank Williams Memorial Tournament held at Malverne High School last month. In the semi final matchup, the team took on Farmingdale High School and defeated them by a score of 48-39 on Dec. 27. Merriweather again led the Vikings with 18 points. Senior Jagger Alagna put up eight points and hit two three-pointers in the game as well.

In the tournament final game, the Vikings took on Malverne. Once again, Port delivered a tournament championship beating the host high school Malverne 72-55. Senior Crew Weingrad had 13 points while Merriweather put up 26 points.

“We knew we had a real shot at winning going into the tournament,” said Goldstein. “I’m really proud of the way the boys played and we really improve as a team.”

In the two games that followed, Port suffered two losses at the hands Hicksville and Westbury on January 4 and 7. In both games, the Vikings had trouble on defense, and struggled to gain control of the game. Players on the team know that their defense will have to improve in order for them to get better.

“Anytime we lose two conference games we always just look at what we’ve been doing in practice,” said Konoff. “We know what we have to work on and we have been doing that in practice.”

Port will looked to rebound in their next game against Valley Stream Central High School on Jan. 16.

So far this season, the Vikings have much to be happy about. For starters, Port’s standout out player Xavier Merriweather is currently the second leading scorer in Nassau County. So far this season, he is averaging just under 23 points per game. For the Vikings, he not only is the leader on the court, but he is also the person that fellow seniors and younger players look to for help and guidance.

“Xavier Merriweather has been playing great for us right now,” said Shanahan. “He’s also been such a great leader and it’s been great learning from him.”

Another standout senior player has been Jake Block. Block is averaging nine points per game and he is currently one of the most productive shooters for the Vikings so far this year.

The team, however, is not just made up of talented senior players. There are many juniors and even younger players that have also played a big role for the team so far this season. Juniors Garrett Ressa, Daniel Dash, and Conor Shanahan have established themselves as consistent scorers in Port’s games. Not only that, the younger players have been making huge contributions that the seniors are grateful for.

“We really like when the juniors and the younger guys are working hard,” said Merriweather. “Their hard work during practice and the energy they bring to games is what makes us a better team.”

Port is hoping that their senior leadership will help them in the second half of the season. The team has many important games coming up in their schedule including a game against Baldwin on January 20. The Vikings have been preparing heavily for this game and the many other games that are left in their season and they are confident that they can finish out the year strong.

“We have many guys that have stepped up in big ways so far this season in games and in practice as well,” said Goldstein. “If we continue to push ourselves in practice everyday then we can compete with any team that is in our conference.”

The Vikings are looking at the end of their season as a great opportunity for them to make one final push towards the playoffs. There are still seven games remaining on their schedule and each one will be more important for the team than the last.

The key for Port will be if they remained focused to finish out their season the way the would like to. For the Vikings, they believe that their talent is there. Now, they just have to make it all come together.

“I think we have one of the strongest teams we’ve had in years,” said Merriweather. “For right now, it’s all about finishing our season strong so we can make the playoffs.”

Merriweather is not the only member of the team that is already set on making the playoffs. Many of the players original goals for this season going into it was making the playoffs. Now, as the playoffs get closer, Port is especially determined to reach this goal.

“Everybody has the same goal,” said Konoff. “I’m really excited for the rest of the regular season and what will come after that.”

There are few things at Schreiber that compare to the atmosphere that is in the gym whenever the Port’s team takes the court. If the team wants to keep this feeling going, they will have to end their season on a strong note so that they can carry their performance with them into the playoffs. With a team full of senior leadership and younger, impactful players, the hopes are as high as they have ever been for the Vikings.