Source: Long Island Herald
It’s shaping up to be a special season for Elmont’s girls’ basketball team, which last week took a large step toward securing its first conference title since 2009-10 with a pair of impressive victories.
Three days after rallying from a 13-point deficit on the road to complete a season sweep of three-time defending Conference AA-III champion Mepham, the undefeated Lady Spartans had four players score in double figures in an 80-62 win over visiting Long Beach last Friday afternoon. Freshman Nkem Nwabudu poured in 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, senior Monique Joseph added 19 points and 10 steals, and seniors Noelle Dixon and Arielle Pierre chipped in 11 points apiece.
“We have some great senior leaders as well as an infusion of talented young players,” Elmont head coach Tom Magno said. “They’ve really jelled. They like each other and play unselfish basketball. It makes for a nice vibe every time they step on the court.”
The Lady Spartans (12-0 overall, 8-0 in AA-III) led by as many as 14 points in the first half but had to find another gear in the third quarter after Long Beach (7-6, 4-5) closed within a basket thanks to the hot hand of freshman Kadaja Bailey, who finished with a game-high 33. After Bailey converted a pass from junior Paige Rogoff into a score less than a minute into the second half to make it 40-38, the host squad started to blow the game open by reeling off 14 straight points.
“We’re working hard and have good chemistry,” said Joseph, who’s been a model of consistency while averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game. “Our main focuses are to share the ball, defend and rebound. I think we deserve to be where we’re at in the standings.”
Nwabudu, who scored a career-high 34 points to lead Elmont over the Lady Marines, 69-44 in the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 19, got the decisive spurt going with a short baseline jumper. Eight of her points came in a dominant third-quarter performance that saw the Lady Spartans outscore the visitors by 15 to take a commanding 61-40 lead into the fourth.
“I knew she’d be a contributor, but she’s been much more than that,” Magno said of Nwabudu, who raised her average to 15.2 points per game.
Dixon, the 6-foot-5 starting center, is an intimidating defender who’s starting to find her offensive game. She was a key factor in a 53-46 come-from-behind victory at Mepham on Jan. 20, scoring 11 points and pulling down a dozen boards. Pierre and freshman Zhaneia Thybulle comprise the starting backcourt and average seven points apiece and spearhead the half-court press.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” said Joseph, who brought the crowd to its feet with a three-point play late in the third. “Practices are competitive, and we’ve been able to carry everything over into games.”
Elmont needs to win only two of its last four games to capture the conference title. MacArthur visits this Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Tony Bellisimo, Long Island Herald