Jahairah Arnoux made the most of her final opportunities at the free throw line and, in turn, lifted the Malverne girls’ basketball team into unfamiliar territory.
Arnoux hit all four of her foul shots in overtime, including the go-ahead basket with just over a minute left, as Malverne moved to .500 on both the season and in conference play with a thrilling 47-44 home win over East Rockaway last Friday night.
Mikayla Johnson had 20 points and Jamila Smith collected eight over her 12 points in the fourth quarter and extra session for the Mules, who won three of their last four to improve to 3-3 in Conference B2 and 7-7 overall. Malverne had won just eight times in its last three seasons combined and hadn’t been at .500 since being 3-3 on Dec. 17, 2019.
“I know we still have a lot of work to do, but I’m just happy that the girls dug deep and, even with the foul trouble, were able to play the whole game,” Malverne head coach Amanda Masson said.
The Rocks also owned a 2-3 conference mark entering the game.
The Mules trailed 34-28 entering the fourth quarter and didn’t score for almost the first three minutes of the final stanza, during which Arnoux missed three straight free throws after being fouled on a shot from beyond the arc with about seven minutes left. But Emma Poland had the only basket during that stretch to push the Rocks’ lead to eight.
Smith then keyed Malverne’s 9-0 run with six points, including a drive that cut the deficit to a point with 3:18 remaining. Malverne finally took the lead on Johnson’s basket with 1:49 left and pushed the lead to 41-39 on Hazel Whitfield’s put-back and free throw and Arnoux’s foul shot.
The Mules were poised to win in regulation when they were awarded an inbounds pass from underneath the Rocks basket with six seconds left. After the initial pass was batted down East Rockaway’s Maya Motherway emerged from the scrum and darted down the court before converting a short running jumper at the buzzer to tie the game.
“Things happen,” Masson said. “The girls were kind of down, but we spoke about it and [we said] the defense had to make one stop at a time and let’s get to the basket. Pretty much just keep fighting.”
Smith hit a hook shot from the right post 25 seconds into overtime, but Motherway finished off a 3-point play to give the Rocks a 44-43 lead with 1:30 left. Arnoux was fouled on Malverne’s ensuing possession and hit both free throws before icing the game with two more with 21 seconds remaining.
The Mules’s quest for a playoff berth continues with a three-game road trip that began at Roosevelt (1-10) and continues Friday against West Hempstead (2-6) before an eight-day break.
“We’re definitely just taking it one game at a time,” Masson said.