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Malverne grinds past East Rockaway

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There wasn’t much in terms of style points, or any points for that matter, but an important victory for Malverne nonetheless in its quest to qualify for the Nassau Class B girls’ basketball playoffs.

Despite failing to reach double digits in any quarter Feb. 4, the Lady Mules managed to make Senior Night a success by grinding past visiting East Rockaway, 26-18, in a Conference B/C struggle. Offense was difficult to come by throughout the evening, with Malverne senior point guard Tyela Davidson’s nine points leading all scorers. Senior Monica Cordova added seven points, while sophomore Princia Ulyssee grabbed eight rebounds.

“You don’t expect to win when you score 26,” head coach Amanda Masson said after Malverne improved to 3-7 in B/C and 6-10 overall. “It’s one of the lowest-scoring games I’ve seen in a while, but we definitely needed the win. Both teams played hard. It’s big that we found a way because it gets us one step closer to the playoffs.”

As the lone Class C school in Nassau, East Rockaway (5-6 in B/C; 7-11 overall) is automatically bound for the Long Island championship game on March 9. While the outcome had no impact on its playoff status, first-year head coach Cheri Poland said there’s a lot the young Lady Rocks still need to work on to prepare for Suffolk Class C representative Pierson.

“We’re a young team that has lapses,” Poland said. “Tonight we just couldn’t overcome poor shooting and our passing was off. We were 3-for-14 from the free-throw line and that was an issue. Looking at it the other way and finding a bright spot, we did a solid job defensively.”

Sophomore Riley O’Hagan, who scored 14 points to lead East Rockaway to a 38-24 home win in the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 11, hit a couple of treys to lead the offense once again. Sophs Katy Howard and Mimi Bilardello had four points apiece.

The first time O’Hagan dialed long distance in last week’s rematch, the Lady Rocks took a 7-4 lead late in the first quarter. However, a 10-minute scoring drought followed and their only point of the second came in the final seconds when Howard sank a free throw to cut Malverne’s lead to 10-8.

The Lady Mules’ backcourt combination of Davidson and senior classmate Tamaira Smalls (four points) was instrumental in limiting turnovers and keeping up the pressure on the defensive end. “Our team is somewhat timid so it’s nice to have guards who can control the pace of a game and give everyone else confidence,” Masson said.

The hosts picked up the pace in the third quarter, scoring nine to take a 19-13 lead into the fourth. O’Hagan opened the final quarter with another three-pointer, but East Rockaway managed just one more basket over the last seven minutes.

“Our offense hasn’t been as consistent as we need it to be,” Poland said. “We’ll keep working hard and have a few things planned during the break to get us ready for the LIC.”