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West Hempstead excited for condensed hoops season

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Returning from the holiday break with no news if high-risk sports such as basketball would get the green light to compete this season across New York State brought West Hempstead boys’ head coach Ed Cosgrove’s level of optimism down.

However, good news was delivered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 22, clearing the way for the high-risk sports to resume as long as local health officials approved. In Nassau, it was determined the basketball seasons would be eight games played over a three-week stretch with no playoffs.

“We weren’t expecting a season to happen so we were jumping for joy,” Cosgrove said. “It feels good to get back to something that you love to do. It’s a truncated season, but we’ll take what we can get.”

The Rams are led by senior forward Brian Pierre-Louis, who averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. “He’s very athletic and had some breakout games,” Cosgrove said. “He’ll have a big role in what we do.”

Senior Jalen Jean steps into the starting point guard role after seeing some time off the bench last winter. He’ll be counted on to serve as the engine of the offense. Junior 6-foot-6 forward Simeon Simms also got a taste of varsity hoops and chipped in 4 points and 5 rebounds. Junior forward Jourdan Mitchell and strong shooting guard Eli Rubin are up from JV.

“It’s safety first,” Cosgrove said. “The kids have a responsibility to themselves and their teammates and their opponents to do everything they can to follow the protocols so we have the best chance possible to play all eight games.”

West Hempstead girls’ basketball coach Chris Van Kovics said holding intramurals twice a week for an hour a while back helped kids work on their skills and return to some normalcy.

“We’re still doing a lot of individual drills,” Van Kovics said. “We’ll take it day by day, play some games and see what happens.”

Getting in all eight games for a team like the Rams, with no seniors on the roster, will be important to set the tone for next season. The experience factor is important for what’s likely to be an all-junior starting five.

Point guard Amanda Healy returns and added 3 inches of height, Van Kovics said. “She knows how to run the offense and makes smart decisions,” he said.

Isabel Tavarez is a strong and quick on-the-ball defender who also poses the offense’s biggest outside shooting threat. Catherine Andree brings solid defense in the low post and shooting range. MacKenzie Cataes is a forward who plays smart and boxes out well on the boards, and center Sanaia Estime is aggressive to the rim and the team’s most accurate free throw shooter.