Competing in a conference that includes three teams that figure to be tough to beat when the Nassau Class A playoffs commence next week hasn’t been all that pleasant for the West Hempstead girls.
With a pair of matchups with undefeated Island Trees, a team with a legitimate shot to win the county championship, and Locust Valley and Mineola, a pair of 14-win teams nipping at the heels of the conference leaders, victories for the Rams in Conference A5 have been few and far between.
After last Friday’s 82-58 loss to Locust Valley, a game that was played at the pace of an NBA All-Star Game, the Rams fell 5-9 overall, 2-7 in league play. Paige O’Brien (28) and Julia Sabatino combined to score 55 points to lead the Falcons. West Hempstead got 20 points from Ja’nya Flash and 17 from Jenna Eivazi.
Despite the one-sided affair, Rams head coach Chris Van Kovics has seen his team play much better in the second half of the season. “Other than the game with Locust Valley, we’ve been keeping games close,” Van Kovics said. “There are games where we’re just overmatched. With a small roster and a bunch of injuries, we just don’t have the depth that other teams have.”
An injury to junior forward Korrina Plair early in the season created a huge gap on both ends of the court. The Rams recently suffered another devastating loss as point guard Haley Duran was lost for the remainder of the season with an injury.
Getting by without their point guard has been beyond challenging. “Haley is in a lot of ways our most valuable player,” Van Kovics said. “She’s not going to lead us in scoring, but she makes us go. She’s able to go left or right with the ball, and helps us tremendously against pressure defense. Locust Valley was able to press us out of the gym with Haley out of the lineup. Losing her hurts.”
Flash had a relatively slow start to the season, but is coming to the wire like a thoroughbred. The senior forward is averaging over 13 points per game in league play, and has been difficult to stop when taking the ball to the hole.
Eivazi’s shooting heated up as well in the second half of the season. She leads the team with 19 threes, and has averaged 12 points per game over the team’s last five contests. Eivazi scored a season-high 18 in leading the team past Seaford 55-42 on January 15.
Freshman Isabelle Tavares is a player that Van Kovics believes can be a big contributor over the next three seasons. Tavares, who scored 17 points in a 61-23 rout of Clarke on Jan. 19, has been a consistent scorer and perhaps the best on-ball defender on the team.
The Rams have one league contest left when they take on Seaford. With a win, West Hempstead could sneak into the playoffs. Results of the game were unavailable at press time.