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West Hempstead gets offensive, tops Clarke


West Hempstead girls’ basketball head coach Chris Van Kovics typically uses the 40-point mark as a target. Last season, the Rams reached it 10 times in 17 games and saw even results. 

However, based on the team’s performance so far, Van Kovics might consider setting the bar higher. West Hempstead scored in double figures in all four quarters and surpassed the 40-point plateau early in the third on the way to a 56-44 road victory over Conference A-IV rival Clarke on Jan. 3.

Junior Ja’nya Flash had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore Jenna Eivazi added a game-high 19 points as West Hempstead reached its offensive goal for the seventh time in nine games while improving to 6-3. Clarke (4-6) was led by junior Emily Carman’s 12 points and senior Sonia Iacoboni’s 11.

“This was Ja’nya’s best game,” Van Kovics said. “She’s been working on her elbow jumper and she hit a bunch today. She’s a presence in the middle and likes to block shots. That got her in a little foul trouble but everyone else stepped up.

“Ja’nya and Jenna are our mainstays, and Haley [Duran] is doing a nice job at the point,” he added. “Haley made smart decisions and hit some big shots.”

The visitors employed a box-and-one to contain Iacoboni, who entered the game averaging 14 points. Iacoboni was held to just one basket in the opening quarter as West Hempstead raced to a 17-8 lead. Sophomore Korrina Plair-Johnson had six of her eight points in the frame.

“If we didn’t defend Iacoboni the way we did, she could have lit us up left and right,” Van Kovics explained.  

Clarke’s offense, which got on track with 17 points in the second quarter thanks in large part to Iacoboni and senior Jessica Baum, was hindered by the absence of sophomore point guard Graceann Murphy, who was hit by the stomach bug earlier in the day. Murphy averaged 8 points over the first nine games in addition to quarterbacking the offense.

“We did some good things, but I don’t think our effort was where it needed to be,” Clarke head coach Shaun Fein said. “Not to make excuses, but finding out Murphy wasn’t going to make it a few hours before tipoff threw everyone off a bit.” 

Eivazi burned Clarke’s zone defense in the first half, scoring 15 points including a trio of treys late in the second quarter. The hosts closed the gap to 17-13 before West Hempstead used a 19-12 run to lead by 11 at halftime. “Eivazi made a couple of tough shots in the first half, so we started fronting her but then they went right over the top with Flash,” Fein said. “Our defense was better in the second half, but we dug ourselves too deep a hole.”

Flash scored two baskets in the opening minute of the third quarter for a 40-25 lead. West Hempstead maintained its double-digit cushion heading into the fourth after Duran, a sophomore lefty, closed the third with a buzzer-beater from just inside the arc.

“We’re a young team with no seniors and the confidence is building,” Van Kovics said.