SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Not only did freshman Dom Cristiano make varsity on the John F. Kennedy Catholic boys basketball team, he also quickly became a starter.
Cristiano scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half Tuesday as Kennedy defeated host Lakeland, 61-48, in a Section 1 Class A game.
Just a year out of Westlake Middle School, he was surprised to make varsity.
“I was very excited because it was a great opportunity, and it showed me that coach had the confidence to bring me up,” said Cristiano, a Valhalla resident. “He told me that he envisioned me in the rotation, and if I worked hard, I could get some playing time."
He was the sixth man the first two games, then earned his first start of his career in the third game of the season against Blind Brook.
Kennedy coach Al Morales, who has coached Cristiano in AAU basketball, said he knows all about the 6-foot-4 freshman but was still impressed.
“He was one of my top seven players so I was bringing him up,” Morales said. “He’s been getting better and better with each game. He had a very good game against Peekskill, which is a big, physical team."
Morales cited two of Cristiano’s major strengths. “He has the ability to score and he plays good defense."
The transition to varsity ball was difficult at first because the players are better and stronger, Cristiano said. However, he said his teammates have been helping him to adjust.
Kennedy was trailing early, 4-3, when Cristiano turned in highlight-reel play. He stole the ball in the lane, evaded a couple of defenders and finished it off with a layup. He was fouled and added the free throw for a three-point play. Kennedy took off from there, scoring the next nine points to take a 15-4 lead.
“It felt good and it got us going,” he said. “Everything was flowing after that.”
Sean Delaney led the Gaels with 19 points, and Dan Cruz added 11 points and six assists.