Aziah Hudson was gone in a flash.
The Baldwin star sliced through the Commack defense so fast that before the Cougars knew it, they were staring at her No. 2 jersey soaring upward for transition layups.
Hudson scored 18 of her 25 points in the first quarter as the Bruins earned their second straight Long Island Class AA title with a 78-48 win over Commack at SCCC-Brentwood on Thursday night.
The defending state champions will face the Orchard Park- Bishop Kearney winner in the state semifinals at 10:45 a.m. on March 17 at Hudson Valley CC in Troy.
“Aziah’s an assassin,” said coach Tom Catapano, slyly referring to the ease with which the senior sneaks behind the defense to score. “She’s the all-time leading scorer at Baldwin. She’s been part of five county titles, three Long Island championships, a New York state title. That kid, she’s left her legacy not only on this program but in this community.”
The Bruins (22-1) took a 31-9 lead at the end of what Catapano called a “picture-perfect” first quarter. Baldwin brought a 45-23 lead into halftime after Kim Shalhoub nailed a three-pointer for Commack (22-3) late in the second quarter.
Early in the third quarter, Commack hit four three-pointers during a 12-0 run that cut the deficit to 47-35. Casey Hearns sank three from long distance in the stretch and scored 15 points in her last game for the Cougars.
Catapano called a timeout to re-energize Baldwin, and it worked. His team responded with a 17-0 run, keyed by eight points from Jenna Annecchiarico, and took a 64-35 lead before Commack scored the last two points of the third quarter.
“During that timeout, we knew we had to wake up,” Hudson said. “They had a couple threes, they made a couple shots, and that was unacceptable.”
Having lost to Commack in the Long Island Class AA championship game in 2015 and 2016, the Bruins were motivated to beat one of the only teams on Long Island that has given them fits in recent years.
A nonstop pressure defense in the first quarter set the tone and carried through. Annecchiarico (five steals), Kaia Harrison (five) and Hudson (four) were relentless in stopping the ball in the backcourt and limiting quality looks at the basket.
Donnetta Johnson had 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists, Annecchiarico and Harrison each scored 13 points and Destiny Samuel had nine points and 10 rebounds for Baldwin.
“We were so hungry for this game,” Harrison said. “We prepared so long and hard. They beat us two years in a row, so that was our motivation to come out and just try to do our best.”
It all started with Hudson’s electric first quarter. Annecchiarico said she expects top performances from Hudson, but not even she was ready for that.
“Transition layups, that’s what she does best,’’ Annecchiarico said, “and we needed her to do that in the first quarter to get us ready and hyped.”