Alexandra Cantwell, Gabrielle Zaffiro lead North Shore girls

North Shore sophomore Alexandra Cantwell squares to the North Shore sophomore Alexandra Cantwell squares to the basket in the second quarter. (Dec. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: James Escher

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North Shore waited a long time for its three-pointers to start falling Saturday.

The Vikings, who heavily rely on the three-point shot, missed all 16 of their three-point attempts in the first half of Saturday's championship game of the North Shore Holiday girls basketball tournament against Uniondale, but nailed 6 of 16 three-pointers in the second half to come from behind and beat the Knights, 59-57.

"We knew the whole game that our shots were going in and out and eventually they would fall," North Shore guard Erin Sheerin said. "We kind of knew a run was coming and once it happened, we're a team that works off of it, so we got ourselves excited and went on from there."

North Shore (6-1) trailed for most of the afternoon, but Sheerin's three-pointer gave the Vikings just their second lead of the game at 48-47 with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter. Gabrielle Zaffiro then hit another three-pointer 30 seconds later, and on the next possession after a Uniondale timeout, stole the ball and coasted for an easy layup that gave the Vikings a 53-47 advantage.

"We just couldn't hit any shots, ," North Shore coach Keith Freund said. "A couple of shots fell in the second half and that got us going. Three-pointers are all contagious."

Added Zaffiro: "I never really shoot threes but I've been practicing them and I was open."

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Uniondale (6-2) made it closer down the stretch as Aliyah McDonald scored five of her 10 points in a short span just a minute later to bring the Knights within 53-52, but Alexandra Cantwell responded for the Vikings with six points of her own in the final three minutes, including a driving floater with 42.8 seconds left that gave North Shore a 59-56 lead.

"When we get that second-half run, we get a big run and pull away, and today was typical for us," Freund said. "Get down early to a good team, wear them down, have a big run and hold on in the end."

Another key to North Shore's win was the constant full-court pressure it applied throughout the game. The Vikings create multiple easy chances by double- or triple-teaming the ballhandler from baseline to baseline, and maintain fresh legs by substituting four or five players about every 40 seconds.

Saturday, they forced 52 turnovers and took 23 more shots than Uniondale.

"Our whole system is based on math," Freund said. "We want to force 32 turnovers a game, take 40 threes and 40 twos, rebound 40 percent of our misses and take 25 more shots than the other team, and that's accomplished by the constant pressure and substitutions."

Yadelin Martinez's 21 points and 12 rebounds led Uniondale, as the Knights took a 43-38 lead into the fourth quarter.

Cantwell and Zaffiro each scored 12 points for North Shore, and Cantwell also had 11 rebounds, eight steals and four assists. Caroline Robertson had 11 points and Sheerin finished with five points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals for North Shore.

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