It was a moment that won’t appear in a box score, but it proved as pivotal as any play in the Nassau B boys basketball semifinals.
After trailing East Rockaway by six points at halftime, the Malverne dynamic duo of Michael Warren and Donovan Ishmael spoke at midcourt during the layup lines. The conversation between the two was simple.
“We’ve been together for a few years now,” said Warren, a 5-11 guard. “But us as a connection as point guard and big man, we told each other we need to pick it up and set the tone.”
It didn’t take long for the two to do just that. Warren scored Malverne’s first seven points in a third quarter which the Mules outscored East Rockaway by 20 points to lead No. 1 Malverne to a 57-46 victory over No. 4 East Rockaway in a Nassau B semifinal at Farmingdale State College on Sunday afternoon.
Malverne (18-2) outscored East Rockaway 25-5 in the third quarter as Ishmael added eight points in the period.
“We played a terrible first half,” said Warren, who led Malverne with 20 points. “At halftime, we noticed we’re the better team so coach talked to us, told us to pick it up, be more aggressive.”
The Mules advance to play Cold Spring Harbor (18-2) in the Nassau B final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State College.
Although Malverne was missing shots in the opening half, East Rockaway (8-12) also played tough defense and took advantage of its scoring opportunities with an aggressive style. Chris Levins finished with 15 points and Franklin Infante added 14 points for the Rocks.
But the Mules’ second-half push and defensive presence proved too much over the game’s final 16 minutes.
“Usually defense wins championships, so without defense we couldn’t win,” said Ishmael, who finished with 15 points. “And with me being one of the helping hands on defense, I had to set the tone, which we did coming out in the second half. It was just straight defense. And defense leads to the offense.”
Ever since winning last season’s Nassau B championship before falling to Center Moriches in the Long Island Class B championship, the Mules have been eyeing a return to championship games. After splitting regular season matchups with Cold Spring Harbor, Malverne will take the court Saturday trying to win consecutive titles.
“Our next game is a big game and we are playing a tough team we lost to recently, but we’re passed that,” Warren said. “We’re just focusing on the bigger picture and get better every day until the game comes.”