Nia Dawson kept calm. Even if her family couldn’t.
Dawson’s family wore shirts with the junior point guard’s picture on the front on Tuesday. On the back was the slogan, “I can’t keep calm, Nia Dawson is the bomb.”
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When the pressure was highest, Dawson not only kept calm, she thrived. Dawson scored a season-high 23 points to lead No. 2 Pierson/Bridgehampton to a 69-50 win over top-seeded Port Jefferson in the Suffolk Class C championship game at Riverhead High School.
“That’s my favorite thing about her,” coach Kevin Barron said. “She never panics.”
That showed when Dawson had to break the press or knock down a key shot. She scored eight points in the third as the Whalers extended their three-point halftime lead to eight. Erica Selyukova and Isabel Peters each hit a three to open the fourth. Dawson then made a backdoor cut and converted a layup off a pretty feed from Selyukova and followed with a layup to cap a 10-0 run and open a 62-44 lead.
“I guess I was just feeling it,” said Dawson, who also had six assists. “My teammates were really getting me involved.”
Lily Kot had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Katie Kneeland added 12 points. Selyukova had seven points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
Port Jefferson star Courtney Lewis, who entered the game leading Suffolk in scoring at 25.3 points per game, had 21 points. Jillian Colucci added 11 for the Royals (13-4).
After Lewis got off to quick start, scoring 11 points in the first, the 5-10 Selyukova was asked to cover the 5-7 guard and forced her to take difficult shots.
“We won because of our team defense, for sure,” Selyukova said. “My coach put me on Lewis and was like, ‘We need you to stop her.’ And I was like ‘You know what, I’m going to try to do that for you guys.’”
While Selyukova anchored the defense, Dawson ignited the offense. Her pretty stutter-step layup late in the first helped open a 16-11 lead. On the ensuing possession, she drew a charge and clapped emphatically, showing an intensity her teammates say she has displayed all season.
“Since the first open gym, she has been about this game the entire time,” Selyukova said of Dawson, who was voted captain by her teammates. “She has held us all together.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton (13-6) plays East Rockaway on March 1 at St. Joseph’s College in the Long Island Class C championship. Will the Dawson family be wearing the same shirts?
“I bet they will,” Dawson said with a laugh. “My mom started that. She’s my number one fan.”
Which is why her mother’s shirt differed slightly from the others. It said, “I can’t keep calm, I’m Nia Dawson’s Mom.”