Guards Erin Rivera and Barbara Nictas love the Herricks girls basketball team's blue-collar mentality of playing harder than the other team on any given night.
"We like to out-tough the team we play every time we step on the floor," Nictas said.
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The Highlanders did just that Monday night in their 51-42 win over Connetquot in the first round of the Babylon Tournament.
Rivera finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five steals and Nictas 20 points and eight assists. Both point totals were career highs.
"They carry our entire team every night. They have to. If they don't, we can't win," Herricks coach G. Davis Lavey said. "The main thing with us is this: Our program has been built on playing harder than the other team and this year more than any other year because of our lack of experience."
Rivera said: "At first, I wasn't getting a lot of shots off because I had to adjust to their defense. I had to make more cuts to the basket and that helped me get more layups."
With a little less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Lavey said he finally could relax when Nictas knocked down her fourth three-pointer to give Herricks (3-0) its largest lead at 49-35.
"It was a big shot because we had to turn the game around and keep everyone positive again," Nictas said. "It was a really big win. We stayed tough."
Herricks was especially tough against Thunderbirds sophomore point guard Alyssa Torres, whom Lavey said the Highlanders double-teamed throughout. It worked, as Torres scored only nine points.
"She's a special player," Lavey said of Torres. "We did our best to deny her the ball and limit her touches because at any point she can explode and drop 10 points in a two-minute span. She can take over the game."
Torres' three-point play with 29 seconds remaining cut the Highlanders' lead to seven, but that was as close as Connetquot (0-2) would get.
The Highlanders will face Wheatley (1-3) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Babylon.
"The team is playing exceptionally hard," Lavey said. "We're overwhelming teams with our effort. That's our mantra: Play harder than everyone else. When we play harder than the other team, that covers up a lot of the rough spots."
Schreiber boosts Wheatley. Perri Schreiber hit a three-pointer with 50 seconds left to put Wheatley ahead by one as the Wildcats defeated Babylon, 35-32, in the opening game of the Babylon Tournament.
Allie LaMonica, who had 13 points for Wheatley, hit a layup with 10 seconds left to provide the final margin. Schreiber had nine points and five assists.