Bring on the Baymen.
The Malverne boys’ basketball team and Conference ABC-champion Oyster Bay will battle it out for the Nassau County Class B title on Thursday after the Mules defeated Wheatley, 67-38, in the semifinals at Farmingdale State University on Sunday.
The teams split two close games during the regular season. Malverne (15-5, 12-3 Conference ABC) handed Oyster Bay (18-2, 13-2) one of its two losses on the season on Jan. 12 when Elliot Edwards hit a turnaround 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 62-61 home victory. The Baymen avenged that loss with a come-from-behind 66-63 win at Oyster Bay on Feb. 6.
Malverne associate coach Walter Aksionoff said all eyes will be on Baymen leading scorer Anthony Reilly, who dropped 27 points on the Mules in the first meeting but missed the second due to an injury.
“Reilly played the first game inside, then the second game, he wasn’t there [and] they killed us on the outside, so we hope to go up and down the court [and] take the legs out of a player,” he said. “We’ve got to attack the rim more.”
Top-seeded Oyster Bay advanced to the final with a 68-52 victory over No. 4 Carle Place.
Malverne held 18 and 19-point halftime advantages in its two games against Wheatley during the regular season, but a lackluster first half on Saturday only resulted in a 23-17 intermission advantage for the Mules. But Malverne began to use more of a press defense in the second half, which clearly confused and wore out the Wildcats as the Mules pulled away.
Malverne’s play reached a crescendo in the fourth quarter when it scored the first 16 points of the session for a 56-29 lead while holding Whealtey scoreless until Andrew Sivin’s free throw with 2:31 left. Freshman Michael Warren had nine points in the final eight minutes and finished with a game-high 20 to go with six assists.
“We weren’t supposed to pressure them from the jump and obviously that didn’t work, so the second half, the coaching staff told us to pick it up,” Warren said.
Michael James had 11 points and five assists and Donovan Ishmael and Jayden Seraphin added eight points apiece. Malverne also dominated the glass, especially on the offensive side, with Ishmael and Seraphin combining for 15 rebounds.
“We have a beast in Donovan,” James said. “He’s always getting rebounds, him and Jayden. They’re young too so they’re athletic and always boxing out.”
Aksionoff believes his team will come out much stronger against Oyster Bay than it did in the first half on Saturday.
“The intensity will be at a different level,” he said. “Knowing these kids, it will be. We’ll see.”
Warren thought the best setting for the rubber game against the Baymen is a neutral and unfamiliar collegiate court at SUNY Old Westbury.
“We’re both 1-1 and playing on a court that nobody has played on,” he said. “It’s neutral now, so we’ll see who’s the best.”