The Malverne and East Rockaway girls basketball programs have storied pasts. The Mules have earned eight Nassau County titles, while the Lady Rocks have picked up nine. Throw in the fact that the two schools are just a couple miles apart on Ocean Avenue, and you have a one of more natural rivalries in the county.
With both programs undergoing a youth movement, wins haven’t been coming in droves, and success has been measured in moral victories. When the teams faced one another Jan. 11 at Malverne High School, each was seeking their first win in Conference BC.
Despite a solid effort by the Mules, this was a day for the Lady Rocks to shine. East Rockaway’s Kim McCann scored nine points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and blocked seven shots to leads the Lady Rocks to a 37-31 win. Sophomore guard Alexis Lopez led Malverne with 10 points.
Malverne head coach Mike Pelan was pleased with the energy his team displayed in the loss. “They play hard every time they take the floor,” Pelan said. “We’re extremely young. We have 10 sophomores, so they understand they’re going to take their lumps. It’s a matter of not getting down, and continuing to try to get better each day.”
The Mules got off to a terrific start as Lopez scored six points in the opening quarter to help Malverne take a 16-12 lead. Neither team could find the basket in the second quarter, but a couple of late free throws helped pull the Lady Rocks within 20-17 at the break.
A pair of free throws by freshman guard Caitlin O’Mara capped of a 6-0 run by East Rockaway to start the second half, but the third quarter was all about McCann. The sophomore forward, who sat much of the second quarter after taking an inadvertent shot to the mouth, was dominant in the paint, giving the Lady Rocks a boost they sorely needed.
East Rockaway head coach Karin Leary thought McCann was the difference. “The past few games Kim has really shown what she’s capable of,” Leary said. “We needed a win badly. She raised her level of intensity, and really took over on the inside.”
As is often the case in close games, free throw shooting down the stretch was the key to East Rockaway’s win. The Lady Rocks hit only 10 field goals on the day, but nailed 15 free throws, eight by O’Mara, to secure the victory.
Leary hopes the win gives her team confidence to compete with some of the conference’s tougher opponents. “This win is huge for the girls,” Leary said. “Hopefully, this will boost their confidence. They’ve been working hard, but not getting the results. If we can take care of the ball a little better, and play with this type of energy, we should be a better team in the second half of the season.”