Newsday runs a full-court press on Long Island high school boys basketball.
The Mules outlast their friends from Friends yet again
Winning ugly never looked so pretty.
Malverne coach Darrol Lopez kept wiping his face with a towel to protect his snazzy suit from getting any sweat drippage on it.
He wasn't necessarily happy with his team's 44-41 win over Friends Academy that clinched the Conference BC title last night, but he was certainly thankful.
"Thank God we can play defense," he said.
Indeed, the Mules, who can now boast two wins over Friends this season by a combined four points, forced 25 turnovers and held the Quakers to a season-low 41 points. Yet even the defense wasn't a thing of beauty.
Xavier Bernard's pull-up jumper with 4:25 to play gave Malverne its largest lead of the game at 41-30. And when Anthony Moultrie swatted away a breakaway layup attempt with his Mules holding a 41-33 advantage with 1:47 to play, a Malverne win seemed like a foregone conclusion.
But Tommy Costa's pair of three-pointers sparked an 11-1 run for Friends that wasn't squashed until Moultrie iced the game with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left.
How did Malverne stay poised?
"I tell them to look at me," Lopez said. "I may be sweating, but I always remain calm."
Twenty-four of Friends' 41 points came on three-pointers, and they had just five field goals from inside the arc — three from Marc Godlis and another two from Eric Chen, who scored eight points off the bench.
Like Malverne, the Quakers played strong defense. The Mules tied their season low with 44 points and this was their first game under 50 points during a 10-game winning streak.
Cory Alexander (pictured, right) is Malverne's leading scorer at 15.7 points per game, but was held to just eight (five in the first half, three in the second). He was 3-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Said Lopez: "Cory has the ability to shoot us into games, but he can also shoot us out of them."
The Mules were just 9-for-20 (45 percent) at the line, while Friends was 7-of-13 (54 percent).
Moultrie, a lefty, had missed four of his six free-throw attempts before calmly sinking two at the end of the game. Yet the bulky, 6-3 forward's best plays came when he showed off his ballhandling ability.
His coast-to-coast layup with 1:31 left in the first half gave Malverne a 21-17 lead. He did it again off a steal with 1:59 left in the third that made it 33-29. But even with Moultrie's impressive showing, Lopez believes he can be doing even better.
"He's very talented," the coach said. "But he can be doing so much more."
After all, expectations are high for the five-time defending Nassau and four-time defending Long Island Class B champs.