After taking the Conference A3 girls’ basketball title last season, Lynbrook is on a roller-coaster 2017-2018 campaign due to uneven play and injuries.
The Lady Owls (4-6) opened the season with consecutive wins, 53-29 at Long Beach and 72-52 at home against Carey — when Sophia LoCicero, the team’s top player, scored 27 points, and second-starter and fellow senior Erin Pender added 12 points — but lost the next two contests to Calhoun and Seaford.
Then came a win at Lawrence, a loss at Hicksville and a fourth victory against Valley Stream Central. The Owls have since dropped three games to East Rockaway, Floral Park and Wantagh.
“We’ve just been very inconsistent offensively, and I think that comes with learning how to play with each other,” said head coach Steve LoCicero, Sophia’s father.
A two-time All New York State selection, Sophia averaged 21 points per game as a guard-forward and led the team with four steals before she sustained a head injury and sat against Floral Park.
“When Sophia gets hot, she pretty much goes unconscious,” LoCicero said. “She’s a streaky shooter, but when it’s on, it’s on.”
She scored her 1,000th career point in the 64-50 loss to Calhoun on Dec. 4 but refused to have her dad stop play to acknowledge her individual achievement.
“She said to me: ‘Are you kidding me, we’re losing; don’t stop this game,’” LoCicero recalled. “That kind of tells you the type of player she is. She’s such a competitor.”
The Lady Owls claimed a moral victory in a 70-63 loss to Wantagh on Jan. 8, when Sophia dropped 29 points, including a three-pointer that gave them the lead, 61-60, with less than three minutes left.
“We were up with two minutes left and lost, but [it was] our best game of the year,” LoCicero said.
Pender, a versatile player who earned an Honorable Mention All County last season, dislocated a kneecap in a 62-45 loss to East Rockaway and may miss the rest of the regular season. In her absence, LoCicero needs other players to step up offensively and get the roller coaster to head upward.
With conference rival games against Bethpage and Floral Park ahead, he’ll look to third starter and senior point guard Brianna Piro to sharpen her shooting in his run-and-gun offense. Piro already leads the team in assists, averaging six per game, and is a lockdown defender who helps run an intense zone-and-man scheme.
Among Lynbrook’s other lead defenders are fourth starter sophomore Kayleigh Stalter, who is an adept rebounder, junior Kerin Bartels, the top backup who can shoot from three-point range, and sophomore Lena Weinkauf, who provides an adrenaline rush off the bench.
Other contributors include sophomore Sara Bahri, the fifth starter and top rebounder, and her sister freshman Camilia Bahri, who brings a youthful excitement off the bench.
For the roller coaster season to result in a playoff berth, though, Lynbrook will need to bring a more explosive offensive game to complement its strong defensive play, LoCicero maintains.
“I think we just need to find our identity offensively,” he said. “And I think we need to play with more consistency.”