Brooke Mazzei hits a layup for two of her six...

Brooke Mazzei hits a layup for two of her six first-quarter points as Owls took a 16-6 lead over Mineola after one quarter on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Credit: James Escher

The Lynbrook girls basketball team has dealt with adversity in nearly every area but the win-loss column. Point guard Brooke Mazzei missed two weeks with a broken nose and has to play with a protective mask. The Owls have had multiple players miss games because of illnesses, yet, they sit atop Nassau Conference A-I with the postseason about a week away.

Mazzei said the mask was a tough adjustment at first, but she’s grown to actually like it. And her time on the bench for a few weeks allowed her to view the game in different ways.

“It was really hard but it made me realize I can have another role on the team even when I’m not playing,” Mazzei said. “I wasn’t worried about how we were going to play, we have so many amazing players, and it was kind of fun being like an assistant coach and being able to pump up the energy while I was out.”

Even with the mask, Mazzei was seeing clearly on Thursday night as she had seven points, 11 assists and six steals in a 44-36 conference victory over host Mineola. She scored six of her seven points in the first quarter as the Owls led 16-6 after one period.

“She’s one of the most dynamic players that I’ve ever coached or have seen in recent years,” coach Koren Pena said. “It adds this momentum to the game, it can change and shift everything . . . she’s a competitor and she’s driven like nobody I’ve ever seen.”

Mazzei jumped passes and snuck up on Mineola players during fast breaks throughout the contest to lead the strong defensive effort.

“It’s a really big part of my game,” she said. “One of the biggest parts of my game is playing with speed and as a team, we’re really fast. We’re a really athletic team and we really thrive off that defensive energy and that translates into offense.”

Sophia Dwyer led the scoring with 14 points while adding eight rebounds and two steals. Dwyer missed multiple practices and a scrimmage with an illness and wasn’t sure how she’d perform on Thursday.

“I thought I was going to come out a little rusty but after the team started making shots, you kind of feed off of that,” Dwyer said. “That gave us energy the rest of the way and it really pushed us.”

Lynbrook opened on a 10-0 run and led 26-15 at halftime and 34-20 entering the fourth quarter.

Jessie Vuotto added eight points, Jillian Festa had six points, Mackenzie Casey had four points, 12 rebounds and four blocks and Cate Jennings had 10 rebounds for Lynbrook (10-1). Twin sisters Elizabeth and Caitlin Kenney had 12 and 11 points, respectively, for Mineola (8-3).

Lynbrook is 14-2 overall after reaching the Nassau Class A final last season. The Owls fell to Manhasset, 53-38, in the county championship and haven’t forgotten that feeling.

“It’s kind of been the motive for the whole entire year,” Mazzei said. “We only graduated three seniors so we have a lot of returning players, but that’s what we’re hoping to get past this year. We’re hoping to get on a run in the playoffs and take it a step further, if not, multiple”

“Last year is really pushing us to win,” Dwyer said. “We want to go all the way. We want to make it and build off what we did last year and bring that energy back and hopefully win it this year.”

Pena said she continues to be impressed how the Owls continue to play despite injuries, illnesses and sometimes missing multiple starters in a competitive Nassau Conference A-I.

“I’m always in awe of how they rally and they come together as a team,” Pena said. “And I think it’s fuel to the fire. I think it’s a driving force to say once we are complete, once we have everybody, just how dynamic and special this group is.”

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