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East Rockaway starting to grow


The Lady Rocks basketball team is a lot younger than the squad that won 12 games last winter and, at times, that greenness has showed. But as the girls gain more experience and new stars emerge on both sides of the ball, consistent winning could once again become the norm for the program.

East Rockaway has endured a season of peaks and valleys as it entered its week-long break with a 5-9 record, but the team has strung together consecutive wins twice this season while picking up three of those victories against conference BC foes. The Lady Rocks have also showed plenty of fight in their defeats with five of the losses coming by six points or less.

As the only ‘C’ team in the county, East Rockaway will automatically advance to the Long Island championship game upon the conclusion of the regular season. In the meantime, they hope to start gathering momentum with a three-game homestand beginning this Friday night against Wheatley.

“They have been working really hard and growing every day,” said first-year head coach Cheri Poland. “Some of those games were tight and, obviously, we wanted to win them, but they’re working for it and that’s important.”

Defense has been the team’s calling card this season by yielding just over 36 points overall while limiting the opposition to less than 40 points in nine of their 14 games. Unfortunately, the offense has yet to follow suit by averaging just 37 points on the campaign.

“Defensively, they’ve been really hungry and trying to improve that every day,” Poland said. “We’ve been scoring in the 30s and that has been our weakness. We’ve been working on our shooting and trying to get them more confident. I know we’re a young team and, in time, that will come.”

It is starting to come for sophomore Riley O’Hagan, who is enjoying a breakout with an 11.5 scoring average after producing just 3.8 points last season. Her best game was a 28-point explosion in a 61-19 rout of Lawrence in the season opener in which she drilled eight three-pointers.

“She’s definitely our go-to person,” Poland said. “She’s stepping up in many games at different times. She is our leader on and off the court.”

Senior Hunter Vertuccio has shined on both ends of the court and Poland proclaimed her as “one of the best defenders in Nassau County.” She is averaging just under 10 points per game to boot, including a 22-point, 10-rebound performance against Oyster Bay on Jan. 9.

“She’s on their strongest player,” Poland said. “She really sets the tone defensively for everybody and holds an expectation. The girls follow her with that.”

Sophomore Katy Howard has benefitted from a move from guard to the post and is averaging 7.5 points a game and while emerging as one of the team’s top rebounders. Mimi Biardello has also been “solid defensively”, according to Poland, and fellow sophomore Katy Howard has had three double-digit point games.