But now, it’s playoff time.
Brooklyn Law and Tech’s boys’ basketball team ended their regular season at 22-2 with a perfect 18-0 league record, topping PSAL Brooklyn A6 division. In league play, Law and Tech outscored their opponents by a total of 752 points, averaging a 44.2-point blowout victory.
It’s been the most discreet form of dominance in New York City.
The Jets were also 18-0 last season, earning a third seed in the Brooklyn Borough playoffs, where they lost to AA contender South Shore in the semifinals. Law and Tech entered the A City playoffs as the top-seed and lost to Walton Campus, 58-57, in the title game, despite leading by 17 points.
“It was maybe the toughest thing I ever had to go through,” said senior forward Victor Ogbo, who averaged 13.3 points and 12.6 rebounds in league play. “That was completely our fault, it was a really big disappointment to everybody. We know now all these little things matter, and we’re not going to let the same little things happen again this year.”
In the ensuing summer and preseason, Law and Tech coaches Michael Levy and Kenny Pretlow made sure the team faced AA squads like Christ the King and Cardozo High School in anticipation of the 2018 playoffs. They’ve even won on occasion.
Even blowout wins can be boring, so this year Levy and Pretlow faced the difficult task of trying to keep the team focused on the bigger picture while routinely routing teams by video game scores, like 104-44 over Millennium High School this past Thursday or 98-49 over Prospect Heights 24 hours later.
“It is a tough battle honestly,” said Levy. “We haven’t always gotten off to the best starts, but that’s one of the advantages of being with Kenny, he’s been there, done that.
“We’re going to see everybody’s best game, so we can’t just walk into a gym and teams are going to roll over,” he added. “We still coach them hard, even if we’re up by 20 or 30 points. Guys understand we’re not coaching to win only that game, we’re looking ahead.”
Like fellow senior Ogbo, David Grady averaged a double-double in points (13.1) and rebounds (10.3) in league action, giving Law and Tech one of the city’s best combinations inside. Grady assures that the team’s motivation is always there, especially with last year’s loss lighting a flame under the Jets.
“I said there’s no way we’re losing like that next year,” said Grady, who on his first year with the Jets watched last season’s title defeat as a spectator. “That’s our motivation to get on the court. Our three main thoughts are to get everybody to college, win a championship, and just have fun with the whole season.”
On the court, the Jets are led by 5-foot-11 senior guard Larry Moreno, a St. Francis Brooklyn commit, who is nearing 2,000 career points, which only 17 New York City basketball players have done.
Hovering near 30 points per game, Moreno is one of the city’s leading scorers, and over time he’s become more of a point guard, dishing out 6.9 assists per contest, second on the team to Davonta “Tank” Cook, who posts 8.8 assists per game.
“I think Larry’s the best guard in the PSAL, if he’s in the AA he’ll still get 30,” said Pretlow, who is also a volunteer assistant at AA top-ranked Thomas Jefferson in Brooklyn. “He’s the only guard in New York City with a Division I scholarship.
“That’s why I don’t like these rankings that come out,” he continued. “If you’re going to rank right, how are you not going to recognize a kid that’s going to score 2,000 points? When we played Transit Tech, Larry walked in the gym and the crowd at Transit Tech stood up and chanted his name. I’ve never seen that.”
Levy says Moreno took last year’s defeat title game loss harder than anyone, hysterically crying on the bench. Moreno also played in the game with a displaced fracture in his finger on his shooting hand, which he suffered in the first round of the playoffs, using tape for two weeks before opting for post-season surgery.
“Everybody expected us to win,” reflected Moreno. “Losing the championship is basically my whole motivation to come back and win. Talent-wise I feel like we have all the pieces, we just have to put it all together.”
But off the court, Levy and Pretlow also make sure that the Jets’ focus extends to books and grades, not just hooks and fades.
Pretlow even makes the boys wear ties to away games, which he ties himself, and has a famous philosophy regarding what he identifies as success.
“I tell kids every year,” he said. “If God told me you can win the championship and about three or four you are not going to graduate, or you might not win but all of you are going to graduate high school, I’ll pick that all of you are going to succeed.
“We’re a program,” he continued. “I don’t chase wins and losses, I don’t chase championships. Duke is successful because that’s a program.”
At the Brooklyn Borough Championships, which began on Tuesday, the fifth-seeded Jets will visit fourth-seeded Boys and Girls, who went 8-6 in Brooklyn AA. Not long after, the Jets will likely be the top-seed in the PSAL A City Tournament again.