2007-02-02 / Sports

'Rockaway 3' Helps Midwood Hornets Soar

By Elio Velez

Midwood High School girls' varsity basketball player Michelle Cashen remembers the day three years ago when she was riding the Q35 bus from Brooklyn back to Rockaway.

Along with her friend and teammate Megan McKenna, the then sophomore was riding home from a pre-season practice when she noticed one of her new teammates hop on the bus.

The new teammate turned out to be freshman Celeste Roberts, a fellow guard on the Hornets basketball team. Cashen then realized that another member of the team would be traveling back to Rockaway. She was most definitely surprised.

"I knew Megan from (Mark Twain JHS in Coney Island) junior high school. So when I came to Midwood, I didn't know Celeste lived in Rockaway," Cashen, now a senior at Midwood said.

"We saw her on the bus one time and she said I'm going home to Rockaway. We were like you lived there too!?!! We thought she lived in Brooklyn so that was so funny!"

It became apparent that the Rockaway triumvirate would be teaming up to play basketball at Midwood High. Three years later, they are still together and are making an impact as one of the top contenders this season in the PSAL's restructured super 'AA' Division. Head coach Artie LaGreca made a point this season to discover a new identity, especially after losing the services of the outstanding point guard Melanie Murphy.

'C.', which was Murphy's middle initial and what the team usually called her, left as the school's all time leading scorer with 1,855 points and is currently at Stanford University.

It left a huge void for this year's Hornets. Or has it? Midwood hasn't performed this year like a team struggling to make up for the services of their former teammate Their results indicate their how well the team is doing and the Hornets are surprising most pundits who did not believe they would be undefeated at 11-0 and on top of the PSAL's Brooklyn 'AA Group 2' standings.

Cashen, McKenna and Roberts have a lot of experience involved in big time games. They were on the bench when the Hornets made the semifinals of the 2004-05 playoffs before losing to Francis Lewis. Now they are cogs on one of the best teams in the city.

McKenna thought her Hornets would do just fine. A three year senior who leads the team in scoring, the 5 foot 8 senior shooting prowess helped to defeat their Brooklyn rivals Grand Street Campus three times this year.

"She's (Murphy) a good player and we miss her but we still have four returning starters and we can handle the pressure," McKenna said.

Michelle Cashen, a 6 foot starting power forward, who is averaging 13 points a game and can play all positions. A good passer as well, Cashen's timely assist late in the ballgame gave teammate Mesha Joseph a chance to score a basket with 10 seconds left and clinch a 54-48 victory over Francis Lewis on January 27.

Celeste Roberts is a defensive minded guard who provided energy and also helped Midwood defeat Lewis for the first time in six years. She says that the team has stamped it's identity as a tough and levelheaded team.

"I know we're a good team and people underestimated us and we're just here to prove we can play. We're here to prove people wrong," Roberts said.

As the season winds down with a huge game against 12-1 Lincoln on Monday and the playoffs looming, LaGreca has no hesitation relying on his three players from Rockaway.

"They've played in loud gyms with noisy fans. I think they can handle my pressure in practice and any pressure in games," LaGreca said smiling.

"I'm just proud of the fact that basketball didn't end last year when 'C.' graduated," LaGreca laughed as he pointed to the banner of the retired #33 number of Melanie Murphy inside the Lady Hornets gymnasium.

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