Malverne starting to hit stride

Mules top East Rockaway, nearing .500


The Malverne boys basketball program is one of the most accomplished in the county. In fact, with 19 Nassau titles, 12 Long Island championships, and three state crowns, the Mules are looked upon as one of the elite programs in the state.

Malverne saw its streak of six straight Nassau Class B championships come to an end last winter, and have an extremely young team for 2012-13, but, after a slow start to the season, the Mules are starting to hit their stride. 

After a 61-51 victory over East Rockaway, Malverne stands at 4-5 overall, 2-3 in Conference BC. Aaron Jackson scored 17 points, and pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds as the Mules won their second straight league contest. Jarmel Richardson and Kevin Young each scored 11 points for Malverne. Senior David McClure led East Rockaway with 17.

Malverne assistant coach Walt Askinoff sees things as a work in progress. “We’re a very young team, and relatively inexperienced,” Askinoff said. “We’re getting there. We’re a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season. We don’t have the size that we’ve had in the past, but we’re a fast team. We’re trying to get better every day. As always, we want to be a different team when the playoffs come around.”

With Jackson controlling the inside game, and the Malverne defense holding McClure, who came in averaging 16 points per game, scoreless in the first half, the Mules raced out to a 25-16 lead at the break. 

The Rocks opened the second half in a full-court press, and it enabled them to open things up a bit and create more scoring opportunities. East Rockaway outscored the Mules 16-15 in the quarter, and the momentum seemed to be shifting.

East Rockaway head coach Joe Lores thought the Malverne mystique may have played a part in the Rocks inability to get going in the opening half. “We told them not to get fooled by their record; they’re a good team that rebounds well,” Lores said. “But, we didn’t want to be intimidated either. We can play with them. We were timid in the first half. Things opened when we started to play our game.”

The fourth quarter was played at a frenetic pace. With McClure finding his way to the basket and the free throw stripe, and junior Kevin Blessington showing a soft touch in the post and from the perimeter, the Rocks cut the Malverne lead to 49-45 with 2:15 remaining in the game. McClure scored all 17 of his points in the second half.

However, the Mules fought back with Richardson hitting a lay up and then banging home a 15-foot jumper to put the game out of reach. Blessington finished with 12 points for East Rockaway, which fell to 5-4 overall, 2-4 in conference play.  

Malverne travels to Wheatley for a 7 p.m. start this Friday. The Wildcats beat the Mules, 55-39, when the teams met in December.