Ashleigh Sheerin first took a seat on the North Shore bench when she was in fourth grade.
“Literally,” North Shore coach Keith Freund said, “she’s been here eight straight years.”
Sheerin was a stat keeper for the team when her two older sisters played. After three seasons on the bench recording statistics, she made varsity as a seventh grader without playing a minute of junior varsity. So she went straight from jotting down rebounds to pulling them down. The former stat girl stuffed the stat sheet Wednesday, helping No. 3 North Shore defeat No. 6 Cold Spring Harbor, 60-44, in the Nassau Class A quarterfinals.
Sheerin had 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals, and played tenacious defense to help the Vikings (17-3), the defending Long Island champions, advance to the semifinals against Floral Park on Sunday at 2 p.m. at LIU Post. Given her longevity, Sheerin was asked what has made North Shore so dominant the last few seasons.
“Our versatility,” she said. “We have so many people that can score. If you shut one of us down, another one steps up. I would not want to play us.”
Another person in attendance qualified to answer that question was Wally Szczerbiak, a former Cold Spring Harbor standout and NBA All-Star who’s now an analyst for the Knicks.
“They shoot the ball really well,” Szczerbiak said after the game. “Their pressure defense, they get a lot of deflections. They are a very physical team. A very aggressive team.”
At the center of it all is Gabby Zaffiro, the second leading scorer on Long Island at 27.9 points per game. The sophomore guard scored 10 of her 22 points in the first quarter as North Shore built a 22-3 lead.
“We got off to a really good start,” Zaffiro said. “We have a lot of weapons. That’s how we’ve found so much success over the years.”
With defenses collapsing around her, Zaffiro has begun to excel at the drive-and-kick to find the open teammate. “She makes everyone out there on the floor better,” Szczerbiak added. “And that’s what great players do.”
Jessica Scuderi had nine points, including a deep three just before the buzzer in the first. Kelly Johansen added 10 points.
Lauren Spinnato led Cold Spring Harbor (12-6) with 15 points. Caroline Kiernan concluded a stellar career by leading a young team to a highly successful season, and after the game was called an “unbelievable talent” by Cold Spring Harbor coach Rory Malone.
North Shore, though, limited the center to four points by denying entry passes and playing suffocating weak side help defense. One of the vocal leaders orchestrating the defense was Sheerin. Just as she once did as a fourth grader.
“Even when she was young she would yell, ‘Rotate! Box out!’” Freund said. “She was a feisty little nine year old coaching from the bench. And she was always right.”