East Meadow returns to win column


Balanced scoring and timely shooting allowed East Meadow to overcome Herricks’ best effort of the season last Friday night and snap a two-game Nassau Conference AA2 boys’ basketball losing streak in the process.
Senior Frank Destefano’s three-pointer in the closing minute of the third quarter accounted for the 12th and final lead change in the Jets’ 66-58 road victory. His 18 points paced East Meadow, which returned to the win column following a pair of hard-fought defeats at Baldwin and Plainview by a combined 10 points.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted, but we needed this one and it’s nice to get the dub after a devastating loss at Plainview,” said senior Jayden Henriquez, who sealed the deal with two late free throws. “We know we’re a really good team that can compete at the highest level,” he added. “We’re just trying to figure out what works best for us right now.”
Sophomore Izaiah Richards had 12 points, Henriquez 9, seniors Muneer Ibrahem and Manjot Singh 8 apiece, and sophomore Will Casseus 7 in a typical across-the-board offensive performance by the Jets, who upped their record to 9-6 overall and 6-3 in AA2. Josh Socias (game-high 21 points), Aidan Smith (15) and Steve Aulicino (11) scored in double figures for Herricks (3-11), which lost for the eighth time in nine conference games.
“Herricks was playing loose with nothing to lose and shot the ball really well,” East Meadow head coach Tom Rottkamp said. “They gave us a great game. All of our games seem to be this way. It’s such a tough conference.

“We had two great practices since the loss to Plainview [59-57] and the kids stepped up in some big spots tonight,” he added.
The Jets were flying early and built a 15-4 lead against a Herricks team they defeated by 17 in the first meeting a month earlier. Destefano, who leads East Meadow in scoring at 15 points per game, nailed his first two attempts from behind the arc to set the tone.
The advantage slowly evaporated, however, and was completely gone with 2:57 remaining in the first half following a traditional three-point play from Socias that gave the Highlanders a 20-19 lead. Henriquez answered by scoring five of the last six points of the half to push the visitors back in front, 26-25.
The Jets let a 34-23 halftime lead slip away at Plainview Jan. 17.
“The first time we lost to Plainview, we had four starters missing so we felt like we could go there and win the rematch,” Henriquez said. “We hold ourselves in high regard, so it was a frustrating loss and we’re glad we had a bounce-back win.”
Momentum swung for good late in a back-and-forth third quarter when Destafano’s trey gave the Jets a 44-43 lead. The shot sparked an 18-3 run that brought the margin to 13 with 4:38 left in the fourth.
With five conference games remaining, East Meadow, which features six players averaging at least 6 points per game, still has a little work to do to secure a spot in the Class AA playoffs. It hosts winless Westbury this Saturday at noon.