Two girls basketball teams, each in the midst of its best season in program history, will make their maiden voyages to the state tournament on Friday. That puts Commack and North Shore two victories away from hanging the first girls basketball state championship banner on the wall.
A look at the opening-round games at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy for both local teams:
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Commack (22-2) vs. Rush-Henrietta (22-0)
Friday, 6:15 p.m.
The Cougars were under a lot of pressure to get to the state tournament . . . actual pressure.
In order to advance to Troy, Commack had to overcome two of Long Island's most dominant pressure defenses. The Cougars cruised against unbeaten Huntington, 54-37, to capture the program's first county championship, then built a double-digit lead and held on against defending Long Island champion Baldwin, 51-50, to advance to the state tournament.
Jackie DelliSanti, the Cougars' leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and primary ballhandler, breaks the press and attacks the rim at will. At 6-1, Chelsea Schultz, averaging 12.9 points, causes matchup nightmares with her ability to play down low and shoot from the outside. Jillian Spagnuola, Leanne Corso, Samantha Miller, and Casey Hearns also are offensive threats and each has the ability to create her own shot.
Rush-Henrietta, making its first appearance in the state semifinals since winning three straight state championships from 2006-08, is led by a pair of 6-foot senior forwards, Dana Watts and Emily Nestler.
The winner advances to the state final at 8:45 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the game between two-time defending state champ Ossining, which returned its entire team, and Bethlehem.
North Shore (19-2) vs. Williamsville South (23-1)
Friday, 1:30 p.m.
Alex Cantwell does it all for the Vikings. Scores, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, wins titles.
The only thing she hadn't done was win a Long Island championship. That all changed last week when North Shore, winner of three of the last four county titles, finally captured Island-wide Class A supremacy by defeating two-time defending Long Island champion Harborfields, 49-47, to advance upstate.
The senior leadership comes from Cantwell, averaging 13.5 points per game, and Sam Capobianco, who is averaging 10.1 points and can play inside and outside.
But North Shore's leading scorer actually is a freshman who can attack the basket and shoot from the outside. Gabrielle Zaffiro, averaging 17.5 points, scored 21 points in the Long Island championship game.
"She played the best game I've ever seen her play offensively and defensively,'' Cantwell said after the game. "For a freshman to put the team on her back like that is amazing.''
Williamsville South, also making its first appearance in the state final four, is led by forward Brianna Neeley, a threat from the outside, and Erin Egan, a presence in the post.
The winner faces either Jamesville-Dewitt, last season's state runner-up, or Albertus Magnus in the state championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.