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Friends Academy, now battle-tested
Friends Academy had its best season in program history last year, capturing its first Long Island championship. And the team, this season, is 14-2 overall.
But within that record is five wins in which the Quakers had to come from behind, four games decided by four or fewer points, and in that, a reason for this group to believe it's more prepared than before for the postseason.
"We've been down a few times going into the fourth and they have that in them to come back," coach Ryan Schneider said. "We have experience, which we didn't have a whole lot of last year, and that adds some composure."
The Quakers showed their poise again on Tuesday, rallying from down 12 points to beat Oyster Bay, 48-46, and secure first place in Nassau Conference BC. Kristina Kim sparked the comeback, scoring 11 of her 15 points in an 18-10 fourth quarter. Lindsay O'Sullivan (15 points) hit five free throws during the run.
Kim also had six assists and O'Sullivan 10 rebounds. Rose Mangiarotti added 12 points and 18 rebounds. The Quakers drew an offensive foul in the final seconds to hold on for the victory.
It was "absolutely" a gut-check game, Schneider said, "especially since it was our Senior Night. The girls just refused to lose this game on their home court."
Not that Oyster Bay didn't almost make it happen. Caroline Kelly (11 points) and Gianna Gotti (10 points) led the Baymen, who were up 11-4 after the first quarter.
"They're young but they're very good and have ferocious guards," Schneider said of Oyster Bay, a team they could meet again in the playoffs. "We beat them [60-46] last time, but it meant nothing... [Oyster Bay] is well-coached and press on defense, and they can force a lot of turnovers."
They did early on, before Friends came back.
The Quakers have three seniors in key roles and O'Sullivan, a sophomore, who has been at the varsity level for three years. A bonus for the playoffs will be the presence of Kim, a 5-9 guard who missed some of last season 's run due to soccer obligations. This season, Schneider said, Kim is "all in and has been phenomenal."
"We have the full team now, along with the experience of last year," Schneider said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how good we're gonna be this year."