Stepping onto the court at the Nassau Coliseum last Saturday, East Rockaway boys’ basketball head coach Paul Collins said the message for his team was simple.
“Big stage, same game.”
If the Rocks had any early jitters playing in the storied arena, the former home of the New York Islanders and recently renovated for multi-purpose sports and entertainment use, they did not show it. Outscoring Wheatley by a dozen points in the first quarter, they gave themselves a cushion they would not relinquish, winning 66-52.
“It was a great day to be at the Coliseum,” Collins said. “We came out strong. Our goal is to always start with high energy, try to get to the basket early and get a lead quick, so we don’t have to battle back.”
Senior forward Sky Mosely filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 8 assists to lead the Rocks, who featured three players scoring double digits and five scoring five points or more.
It was business as usual for Mosely, who is the third-leading scorer in the county, averaging just shy of 25 points per game.
“He’s unselfish,” Collins said. “He’s always looking to give the ball up. He can shoot from the outside. He can throw it down. The key is that he has fun. The kid just has a lot of fun out there.”
But what made the victory that much more impressive was that it was a true team effort: every player touched the floor in both halves of the game,” Collins said. “It’s a special place,” said the coach. “Everyone’s got to touch the floor there. And the fact is no matter who they were, we kept the lead the whole time.”
Chris Levins scored 15 points and Jarrell Brown contributed 10 points off the bench. Stefano Cilluffo added eight points.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Rocks, who climbed to 7-6 overall and 5-3 in Conference ABC.
The team is hitting its stride at just the right time, said Collins, with three of their next four opponents sitting above them in the conference –Malverne, Oyster Bay Cold Spring Harbor – each of whom got the best of East Rockaway the first time around.
Indeed, the Rocks will get their first chance at revenge in its next game, on Jan. 27, against Malverne, who they played tough on the road earlier this month in what was a 64-59 defeat.
“That’s when we started this streak that we’re on.” Collins said. “So I think all three teams are going to see a different team they saw the first time. And we could really have success against these teams now.”
But until then, the Rocks will get a few more days to soak in their big win. “This was different and exciting because it’s a place where professionals play,” Collins said of the Coliseum. “We took the big stage but we played our same game.”