Very few high school basketball teams on Long Island won more road games, and none played as many games away from home than East Rockaway’s boys in 2012-13. With the high school off limits after Hurricane Sandy, the Rocks were unable to play within the friendly confines of the Rock Palace.
East Rockaway’s season came to a disappointing end with a loss to county champion Wheatley in the semifinal round of the Nassau Class B playoffs. But this season will forever be remembered as the one the Rocks spent as much time on buses as they did on the basketball court.
The Rocks, who finished with an overall record of 8-10, practiced in five different facilities (all outside of the district), and traveled as far as Shelter Island for a non-league game. What at first was a novelty became a chore for the players and coaching staff.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have pushed harder to find a local facility to play games closer to homes,” East Rockaway head coach Joe Lores said. “Nobody would have signed up to take buses to practice every day, and play every game on the road. That said, the guys handled the situation as well as could be expected.”
Despite the adversity, East Rockaway entered its second meeting with Locust Valley in position to secure Conference B-C’s final playoff berth with a victory. The Falcons had beaten the Rocks 70-58 earlier in the season.
The Rocks picked this night to play what was likely their game of the season. Senior David McClure scored 20 points, and junior forward Kevin Blessington had eight points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots as the Rocks cruised to a 58-44 win. Senior Ed Carneglia added a career-high eight points.
According to Lores, McClure, who led the team with an average of 17.5 points and 4.5 assists per game, accounted for approximately 65 percent of the team’s overall scoring either by finding the bottom of the net or an open teammate.
McClure not only picked up All-County honors, he was selected by coaches as the Conference B-C Player of the Year. He finished up his career at East Rockaway fourth on the all-time scoring list.
Danny Fusco, a keg piece to the present and future of East Rockaway basketball, improved steadily throughout the season. The freshman point guard averaged 11 points per contest in the final seven league games, and dropped a career-high 18 against Malverne in the last regular season game.
Lores was proud of his team. “We made the playoffs despite dealing with some pretty tough circumstances,” he said. “Regardless of what we faced, you just have to go out and play the game. It’s not the way we wanted to go out, so nobody liked the way things finished up, but the guys played hard every night, and did the best they could considering what they were up against.”