Things have not been ideal on the basketball court at West Hempstead over the past few seasons. Low numbers have left the girls program unable to put a junior varsity team on the floor, leaving younger players without an appropriate level to develop their skills. In many cases, underclassmen have been forced into service at the varsity level before they were ready.
The results haven’t been rosy, however, after not registering a league win in 2015-16, the Rams have shown improvement. After last Saturday afternoon’s 44-36 win over visiting Friends Academy, the Rams are 4-9 (2-6 in Nassau Conference A-IV.) Sophomore forward Ja’nya Flash scored 17 points to lead West Hempstead. The Quakers got a game-high 21 points from Lauren Leogrande.
The victory gave the team wins in two of its last three games. Earlier in the week, the Rams got a career-high 23 points from freshman guard Jenna Eivasi in a 51-41 home win against Clarke. Flash added 11 points, and 6-foot freshman Korrina Plair-Johnson scored 10. Clarke’s Sonia Iacoboni led all scorers with 26.
Despite his team playing through a ton of adversity, head coach Chris Van Kovics knows things are better than they were at the onset of the season. “We’ve improved considerably since November,” Van Kovics said. “It’s real challenging. We usually only have seven or eight girls to practice with, so it’s hard to simulate game situations. That’s probably the most frustrating thing. We’re real young and inexperienced, but we’ve definitely gotten better.”
The team came into the season hopeful that the freshmen backcourt of Eivasi and Haley Duran would take steps toward blossoming into a solid guard tandem. Unfortunately, Duran, the team’s point guard, suffered a season-ending injury in just the second game of the 2016-17 campaign, leaving Eivasi to take over at the point. Duran is expected to be fully recovered for next season.
Eivasi, the team’s best shooter and its leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, stepped into a role that she wasn’t expecting to play, and has done an admirable job. She helped put the Friends Academy game away by going 7 for 10 from the foul line. Versatile junior Lydia Almeida has played small forward and both guard positions.
Van Kovics preaches the importance of taking care of your own opportunities, while keeping the opponent’s chances to a minimum. While the team has had trouble finding the bottom of the net, West Hempstead has been pretty good on the boards. Flash and Plair-Johnson, who Van Kovics calls his most-improved player, have done a nice job of controlling the glass.
“We knew coming into the season that we were going to be overmatched against certain teams,” Van Kovics said. “We’re just not at that level. But, we have the opportunity to win another game or two. We’ve come a long way for a team that didn’t get a league win a year ago.”
The Rams travel to Mineola to take on the Mustangs on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m.