Jena Cozza's 24 points, 13 rebounds lead MacArthur past Baldwin

MacArthur senior Jena Cozza takes the ball across MacArthur senior Jena Cozza takes the ball across half court against Baldwin. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

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Over the last three seasons, no matter how much MacArthur accomplished, Baldwin was always one step ahead.

The Generals went deep in the Nassau Class AA girls basketball playoffs, but they watched Baldwin win three consecutive county and conference championships, and they lost to the Bruins in six of their previous seven meetings.

But if Tuesday night's game was any indication, the Generals might be the team in command this season.

Jena Cozza tied a season high with 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as host MacArthur (6-0) held off a second-half comeback by Baldwin to win, 59-55, and take a 11/2-game lead over the Bruins in Conference AA-II.

"We knew this game was big for the season and it would boost our confidence for the next time we play them," Cozza said. "We haven't beaten them in a while and this is a big game."

"It feels good as a senior to finally beat our rivals," forward Courtney Noakes said.

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Baldwin cut MacArthur's 17-point halftime lead to three with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter, but Kristen Gay's fast-break layup and free throw gave MacArthur a six-point lead with 3:26 to play. Stephanie Volpe's free throw with 1:02 left extended the lead to 58-48, but Baldwin (4-1) charged back again and cut it to 59-55 on Jade Aponte's layup with 29 seconds left.

After Tyra Harrison (18 points) stole the ensuing inbounds pass, the Bruins had four shots inside to try to make it a one-possession game, but they couldn't convert.

"This is the biggest win of the year so far and hopefully, we have a couple more coming up," MacArthur coach Mike Gattus said. "That team is an awesome team and we knew what we were up against and are very happy with this win."

MacArthur (6-0) took a 19-11 lead after the first quarter behind Jen Gubell's 3-for-3 shooting from the field and seven points. Cozza was able to consistently attack the net in the second quarter, finishing with 15 points at the half, while Noakes (12 points) sparked an 11-2 run in the final 4:11 to make it 37-20 at the break.

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