Olivia Mosca was screaming for the ball and waving her arms under the basket.
The Deer Park girls basketball team was tied with Half Hollow Hills East in the Suffolk Shootout with 37 seconds left, and Mosca knew that this opportunity at an easy go-ahead basket was too good to pass up.
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“We broke the press and I was wide open screaming for the ball,” Mosca said.
A quick pass from point guard Jayda Brown led to a strong finish by Mosca and a two-point lead in favor of Deer Park (4-3). Mosca then hit another layup after Tasia Chambers led a fast break off a steal, taking a four-point lead in what would be a 52-49 victory.
It was a moment of triumph for the Falcons, who were down 15-2 at the very beginning of the first quarter before coach Mike Gennaro called a timeout in hopes of stopping the run.
“He told us to wake up and start playing at our speed,” Mosca said.
The team heard his plea. Mosca (11 points), Brown (12), Chambers (15) and the rest of the Falcons went on an 11-3 run to close the quarter trailing 18-13. Then Deer Park outscored Hills East 12-6 in the second, riding a 25-24 lead into the break.
That’s when the Thunderbirds (3-4), led by Alexa Wallace’s 22 points, turned up the pressure.
“Their pressure was so intense in the second half, and we were having a lot of trouble breaking their man-to-man press,” Gennaro said.
The contest continued back and forth in the second half, until a final minute in which everything seemed to slow down. Gennaro said he remembers the events of the last 60 seconds “pretty clearly,” punctuated with the Chambers-to-Mosca steal and basket to take a 52-48 lead.
Mosca, a senior who has spent three years on varsity, said that even though her Falcons are a young group, this win proved that they can hang with any team, in any situation.
“The game showed our passion that we don’t want to lose,” she said.