Mules bitten by Wildcats

Wheatley tops Malverne for Class B crown


It wasn’t long ago when Malverne dominated the Nassau and Long Island Class B boys’ basketball scenes, winning seven of eight county titles between 2004-11 and four straight L.I. crowns (2007-10) during that span.

However, the rest of the pack has caught up and passed the Mules over the past three seasons. Wheatley, in particular, has gotten the best of them.

The second-seeded Wildcats avenged a pair of regular-season losses to No. 1 Malverne and repeated as Nassau Class B champions with a 68-51 victory last Friday afternoon at LIU-Post. Joshua Hyon scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half, and Kevin Martins (17), Kevin Tripi (16), and Sam Fieldman (11) also scored in double figures for Wheatley, which will play Southampton for the L.I. title on March 4 at Farmingdale State College. Senior Aaron Jackson led the Mules with 14 points.

“It’s disappointing, but they were the better team,” Malverne head coach Darrol Lopez said. “They came to play and shot the ball well.”

The Wildcats, who outlasted East Rockaway in triple overtime in the semifinals, fell twice to the Mules earlier in the month. Malverne won 55-49 on Feb. 6, and 86-72 four days later when senior Jarmell Richardson led five double-digit scorers with 24.

“We didn’t want to run up and down the floor with them,” Wheatley head coach Jim Curcio said. “That’s what they like to do and they beat us twice doing it. We made some defensive adjustments this time and took the air out of the ball a little bit.”

The pace was still to Malverne’s liking early. The opening quarter featured four lead changes and ended with the Mules trailing 19-18 after Hyon’s buzzer-beater. Hyon scored 13 points in the second and put the Wildcats ahead for good — 29-28 — with one of his three treys in the quarter. “He was a tremendous point guard today,” Curcio said of Hyon, who missed most of the third quarter after picking up his third foul. “He was on fire, saw the floor well and handled the ball like he can.”

Malverne couldn’t take advantage of Hyon’s absence on the court, going 1-for-8 from the foul line in the third while continuing to miss bunnies from the pain. Meanwhile, Martins and Tripi picked up the scoring slack for Wheatley. They combined for 15 of the Wildcats’ 17 points in the quarter and suddenly the margin was 13 with eight minutes to go.

“That’s how we’ve been all year,” Curcio said. “The kids really support each other. They sacrifice for each other. My hat’s off to all 13 of them.”

The Mules (11-8 overall), who cruised past Oyster Bay in the semifinals, struggled early in the fourth and saw their deficit swell to 19 points after Wheatley got baskets from Tripi, Hyon, and Fieldman to open the quarter.