East Rockaway fighting for top seed


Playoff preparations have begun for the East Rockaway girls’ basketball team as it plays the final games of the regular season and the Rocks are hoping that the quick return of a key player will help them grab that crucial top seed.

The Rocks were mired in a three-game losing streak entering this week’s play and were without leading scorer Emma Poland for the latter two after the star forward suffered a quad strain that was evident in a 40-30 home defeat against Oyster Bay in which she was limited to 11 points. The offense scored a combined 49 points in her absence, including a 60-20 setback at division-leading Cold Spring Harbor last Saturday.

Poland is averaging over 20 points a game this season, about five more than her junior campaign, and has emerged as one of the best all-around players on Long Island. Head coach Cheri Poland hoped to have her daughter back for Monday’s game against Locust Valley with a critical clash at Carle Place looming on Thursday.

“She’s had a great season,” Cheri Poland said. “Most of her games have been double-doubles. She’s among the top leading scorers on Long Island and she’s been holding steady with that. I think she’ll come on strong coming through the last four games and hopefully throughout [the playoffs].”

The Rocks (9-7, 5-3 Conference AB-3) are battling Carle Place (10-5, 6-2) for the top seed in the ‘B’ playoffs and the right to play winless West Hempstead in the first round. East Rockaway split with likely third-seed Oyster Bay after surviving 31-29 on Dec. 13 thanks to Poland’s game-winning basket with 5.9 seconds left.

“That game will be significant in the seeding,” Cheri Poland said of Thursday’s tilt. “Really it’s going to set the tone going into the playoffs. The girls are ready for that. We know that it’s going to be a very important game.”

East Rockaway already has a leg up on the Frogs after a thrilling 54-53 overtime win on Jan. 4 in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal matchup. The Rocks were outscored 16-11 in the fourth quarter, but Poland forced extra time with a game-tying 3-pointer and Maya Motherway hit the game-winning free throw in the fifth period.

“The girls really worked until the end,” Cheri Poland recalled. “The defense worked extremely hard during that game to get us back. It’s always been a nice rival with them and they know it’s going to wind up being us and them fighting it out.”

Carle Place is done with West Hempstead and play Cold Spring Harbor on Feb. 5, while the Rocks will visit West Hempstead in the season finale on Feb. 8.

Sophomore Motherway is averaging around 12 points, but the next leading scorer is senior guard Sofia Ramirez at 4.5 points a game and Cheri Poland is hoping either her or another from a group of Isabella Alvarez (3.7), Sofia Tizio (3.6), and Sophia Pappas (3.4) could emerge as that dependable tertiary scorer in time for the playoffs.