First county title since 1993
Victories and titles are savored, of course. But in the elephantine memories of athletes, a crushing loss can carry just as much an emotional charge.
Just ask any Manhasset girls basketball player and coach, who entered the 2022 Nassau County Class A tourney as the top seed, only to be toppled in the opening round by ninth-ranked Lynbrook, 75-64.
Flash forward a year, and the same Owls, now seeded No. 2, stood between the Indians and their first county title in 30 years. The squads squared off on March 4 at Hofstra University’s Mack Sports Complex, and despite some rough patches, the Indians managed a 53-38 win.
They will face Shoreham-Wading River for the Long Island championship this Saturday at SUNY Farmingdale at 2 p.m.
Lynbrook ((22-3) and Manhasset (23-1) did not face each other during the regular season.
“Was revenge a factor?” Ali McIntyre was asked.
“Oh, for sure,” she replied. “We really didn’t want to play them. Obviously, [the game] came with a lot of mental baggage, but I’m really glad we were able to overcome it. It was a motivating factor for us.”
Caitlin Barrett gave Manhasset its biggest lead in the opening half, converting a layup after a steal to make it 24-13. But Lynbrook ended the quarter with seven straight points to close to 24-20 at the break.
A 3-pointer by Kaelynn O’Brien with about 3 minutes left in the third brought Lynbrook to within 30-29 before the Indians reeled off eight straight points—six coming from McIntyre—to go up 38-29 with 7:11 left in the game.
Lynbrook did not go quietly. A pair of free throws from Cate Jennings got the Owls within 40-35 with 3:20 to go. They were helped by Manhasset’s sloppy passing and turnovers.
“We definitely had a lot of careless plays,” McIntyre admitted. “We did not take care of the ball. We would pass before looking.”
“I think they were trying to play a little bit faster than we needed to play,” Manhasset coach Lauren Sadeh said of her charges. “I don’t know if it was nerves, or trying to do too much too fast. I [told them] ‘You can’t score a 10-pointer.’ I said we get one good possession and one stop, that’s been our model all year round—take it possession by possession.”
After Sadeh called time, the Indians settled down and went on a 13-3 run to pull away. Lynbrook resorted to deliberate fouling, and Manhasset converted 11 of 14 free throw attempts in this stretch.
“She was telling us to keep our composure, because she knew we had been setting the tempo of this entire game. It was [played] on our terms,” McIntyre related.
The Indians got balanced scoring from Mia LoPinto (13), McIntyre (12), Barrett (11) and Nicole Tsiamis (11).
Regarding last year, Sadeh said, “We all felt that our exit was way earlier than we were anticipating. I think we [realized] that this is a new team. The girls who were 10th graders and younger on the team were now veterans. And then we had some really talented youth come up and we were going to be better this year, with more confidence and another year of experience.”
Asked what challenges the Owls presented, Sadeh replied, “They’re super athletic. They’re really well coached. Steve [LoCicero ] is a great coach and he’s done an awesome job with them all year long. They have threats from outside. They pass the ball really well. And they’re just a team that’s ready to take advantage of any mistake that you make. So we talked about limiting turnovers and how important that was going to be to just control the game.”
For Sadeh, this is her first trophy, coming in her 13th season as head coach. Her teams, she said, were eliminated in the semis in both 2018 and 2019.
Summed up McIntyre, “[Lynbrook has] a really good team, but I think [Coach Sadeh] gave us a lot of confidence and has faith in us, which is really amazing. And I think we trust each other so much that we were able to pull it out.”
Path to Title
The Indians began the playoffs with a 56-34 win over No. 8 MacArthur. Barrett (18 points, five steals) paced the scoring, with help from LoPinto and Perfetto (11 each).
Barrett was the hero of the 41-39 semifinal win over No. 5 Bethpage. In addition to her 19 points and six steals, she scored the go-ahead field goal with 48.5 seconds left to put the Indians ahead 40-39. LoPinto added a free throw with seconds left to put the final point into the scorebook.