The good news for East Meadow girls basketball (9-5 overall, 6-1 in Conference AA-II) is that four of its final five regular-season games are against league teams they previously beat. The downside is four games are away.
The Lady Jets were scheduled to play at juggernaut Baldwin on Tuesday after presstime, and at Hicksville on Thursday before they host Long Beach (this Saturday at 12 p.m.) and travel to Plainview (Feb. 5) and Port Washington (Feb 8.)
“It’s really tough to win on the road in our conference,” East Meadow head coach Pete Olenik said.
The Lady Jets entered this week riding a five-game winning streak, including two in-league road wins, and vying for a postseason seed higher than eight or seven to avoid likely facing Baldwin or Syosset, two superior teams. East Meadow fell to Baldwin 69-32 on Jan. 3.
But two days later, the Lady Jets dominated Hicksville, 51-21, at home, a win that was their best all-around game and ignited their streak. East Meadow’s defense held the Comets to 12 points in the first half and junior center Danielle Hippner finished with 18 points.
The Jets also impressed against Plainview when down 15 points at halftime at home on Jan. 12. They staged a 27-4 run in the third period and emerged victorious, 59-51. Hippner secured 14 of those 27 points en route to 30 in all.
After graduating the program’s all-time leading scorer, Emily Shurina, in June, Olenik anticipated an offensive dropoff this season. He preached the need for solid defense and expected Hippner, an All-County selection last season, to average 15 points per game.
Instead, Hippner has matched Shurina’s average from last season at 22 points, while averaging 10 rebounds and 10 trips to the free-throw line each game. She posted a career-high 31 points in a 51-32 win at Long Beach on Jan. 9.
“Danielle can get to the boards, rebound, block shots, and put the ball in the basket,” Olenik said. “She really is an all-around center-forward type of player and has really made monumental strides in the past year or so.”
Energetic Alyssa Yablansky is part of a continuous guard rotation that Olenik installed this season to compliment Hippner. While Yablansky and her fellow guards are solid defenders, he needs them to play more steadily on offense if the Lady Jets are to even earn a playoff berth.
Sophomore guard Rhoda Williams gives her all on defense, and while she tallied nine points against Hicksville, she struggles with offensive consistency. Athletic freshman guard Lindsay Solenski is another hard-nosed defender who is otherwise turnover-prone and trying to find her offensive groove.
“We need someone to consistently pick up about 10 points a game to give Danielle some kind of help,” Olenik said.
Sophomore guard Julie Tanenblatt has come closest to heeding that call, having dropped a career-high 17 points on Plainview, 11 against Westbury and 10 on Hicksville. Olenik brought Tanenblatt up from JV to contribute in the playoffs last season when East Meadow beat Plainview in the first round before losing to Massapequa.