If you thought Baldwin’s girls basketball team was loaded last season, then just wait until the Bruins hit their stride this winter.
Coming off a season in which they trounced four-time defending state Class AA champion Ossining in the state title game, 73-45, the Bruins return starters Aziah Hudson, Jenna Annecchiarico and Kaia Harrison.
They’ll add senior Donnetta Johnson, a 5-11 wing committed to Georgia, and Destiny Samuels, a 6-2 forward who coach Tom Catapano said is receiving Division I interest. Johnson missed last season with knee problems, and Samuels transferred to Baldwin from Long Island Lutheran over the summer.
“This is a new season. It’s just to get kids comfortable playing with one another,” Catapano said. “Right now, kids are battling for different roles. There’s a lot of competition every single day. We’re just focusing on one day at a time, just focusing more on the journey rather than the destination. We know if the kids work hard, we think we can be very good.”
Known for their stifling press and overwhelming speed in transition, the Bruins are favored to win another state championship. While it will take some time for the newer pieces to mesh and find their roles, the sheer volume of raw talent on Baldwin will cause fits for opponents.
Hudson, Annecchiarico and Harrison are excellent two-way guards, while Johnson can fill any role. Samuels is an athlete who could find her niche coming off the bench, with center Sarah Henry earning a starting spot in certain matchups.
But it’s Johnson who could be the player who puts this team over the top. She’s a consistent scorer who can use both hands, and she’s anxious to get back on the court after a long rehab process.
“I just can’t wait,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a long journey, it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to put in more work than we did last year because of the high expectations we have and that chip on our shoulders.”
NASSAU CLASS A
This could come down to Elmont and North Shore, teams that played an exciting county final last season. Elmont won, 50-49, and advanced to the state Class A tournament, and core members Kem Nwabudu and Zhaneia Thybulle return for their senior seasons.
But North Shore returns reigning Newsday All-Long Island Nassau Player of the Year Gabrielle Zaffiro. Coach Keith Freund said she’s approaching the state varsity record for three-pointers, and she’s already eclipsed the 2,000-point mark.
Sewanhaka also could be in the discussion. The Indians graduated just one player, and with their core still intact, they could compete for a county title under coach Alex Soupios.
Seaford, Mepham and Mineola also have the talent to surprise and make a run.
NASSAU B & C
Carle Place is the defending Nassau Class B champion, and speedy point guard Leah Burden could key another successful season. Oyster Bay’s Gianna Gotti enters her senior season as a threat to go for 30 points any night. Malverne could surprise.
East Rockaway is the only Nassau Class C team, but the Rocks will use the season to prepare for the winner of Suffolk Class C.
2. Long Island Lutheran
4. Central Islip
6. North Shore
7. Ward Melville
9. St. Anthony’s
10. St. Mary’s
Players to watch
Jenna Annecchiarico, Baldwin, G, 5-6, Sr.
A feisty defender and excellent ball-handler, the Bruins’ spark plug has signed to play Division I at Eastern Michigan.
Naabea Assibey-Bonsu, Central Islip, G, 5-6, Sr.
With a knack for getting to the basket and playing tough defense, she leads the defending Suffolk AA champions.
Kadaja Bailey, St. Mary’s, G, 6 feet, Sr.
An excellent scorer and passer who is approaching the 2,000-point mark. She’ll play at St. John’s.
Danielle Cosgrove, Sachem East, F/C, 6-3, Sr.
The Notre Dame signee has averaged a double-double for three straight years and is both a polished shooter and scorer in the paint.
Lauren Hansen, Ward Melville, G, 5-7, Jr.
One of the top players on Long Island, Hansen’s ball-handling and shooting have helped her receive interest from high-level Division I programs, according to coach Samantha Prahalis.
Aziah Hudson, Baldwin, G, 5-7, Sr.
The Bruins’ all-time leading scorer is the ultimate slasher and will take her athleticism to Old Dominion next season.
Samantha Schultz, Kings Park, G, 5-10, Sr.
The NJIT signee can shoot from almost anywhere and can get to the rim with ease.
Celeste Taylor, Long Island Lutheran, G, 5-10, Jr.
She won a gold medal in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the FIBA U16 World Championships in June.
Zhaneia Thybulle, Elmont, G, 5-6, Sr.
One of the fastest players in terms of footwork and decision-making, she’ll play at UNC-Wilmington.
Gabrielle Zaffiro, North Shore, G, 5-9, Sr.
Unlimited range has her within reach of the state record for three-pointers made on varsity. Having already eclipsed 2,000 points, she’s one of Long Island’s top scorers.