The Malverne boys basketball team wanted to enter the most important stretch of the season the right way.
After winning the Nassau Class B championship February 21, the Mules have a decent layoff until their Long Island Class B championship meeting with Center Moriches March 10. Monday night was Malverne’s final chance to play in a game atmosphere before its toughest challenge of the season — and the players didn’t want to enter it feeling anything but confident.
But the start wasn’t ideal. The Mules trailed by three points nearly midway through the second quarter. Then, Malverne scored 13 of the final 14 points of the first half en route to its 64-48 victory over East Rockaway in the Nassau Class B/C championship game at Wheatley High School.
“This is like our pregame to our big championship, which is on March 10,” guard Michael Warren Jr. said. “We take this game very seriously, too, because if we lose, that sets the tone down and we are going into the championship with a loss, which is not what we want to do.”
Trey Robinson, a 6-5 forward, created matchup problems throughout the contest. The sophomore finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, including six points during the Mules’ 13-1 run to close the opening half.
“In the beginning of the year I was passive, so they want me to be more aggressive,” Robinson said. “I feel like when I come out and play aggressive, the energy around the team gets better.”
That was the case Monday, as Robinson helped Malverne take a 33-24 halftime lead and expand it to 49-36 after the third quarter.
“He’s a very important player,” Warren Jr. said. “And for him to pick up his game and how he’s been playing, it’s very important for us and I love the way he’s been playing.”
Warren Jr. had 22 points and six assists, with DeAndre Blagrove and Jayden Seraphin adding nine and eight points, respectively, as Malverne won its seventh straight game. Franklin Infante led East Rockaway with 19 points.
“We wanted to play hard, get ready for Center Moriches,” Robinson said.
Malverne (16-6) will meet Center Moriches (21-2) in the Long Island Class B championship in a state subregional matchup at Centereach High School March 10 at 7 p.m.
East Rockaway (8-12) will play Southold (14-9) in the Long Island Class C championship in a state subregional matchup at Centereach High School March 10 at 4:30 p.m.
In the meantime, Malverne will be focusing on the basics.
“We just want to get better every day and take practice [seriously],” Warren Jr said. “Focus on our defense because the only way we are going to win is through defense.”