Baldwin's Kaia Harrison drives for a layup during win in...

Baldwin's Kaia Harrison drives for a layup during win in Nassau Class AA semifinal on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Baldwin girls basketball team is uncharacteristically young.

Last year’s state Federation Class AA champion graduated four seniors who now are playing Division I ball and turned the program over to senior Kaia Harrison and a slew of younger players.

Harrison, who is bound for Wake Forest, has done her best to lead on the court and in the locker room, and it was her play that set the tone in Monday night’s Nassau Class AA semifinal at Farmingdale State.

She had 20 points — including the game’s first 12 — and added nine rebounds, seven steals and five assists as the No. 1 Bruins beat No. 5 Farmingdale, 61-18.

“I feel like everybody started to go into their roles and do their jobs on the court,” said Harrison, who acknowledged that any struggles early in the year could be attributed to four new starters learning to play together. “It did take time, but I feel like our chemistry off the court was so great.”

The two-time defending state champs are seeking their ninth county championship in 10 years under coach Tom Catapano. The Bruins will play No. 2 Syosset at 1 p.m. Sunday at Farmingdale State.

Baldwin’s dominance of Farmingdale (13-8) was emphasized on the defensive end, where the Bruins (19-1) forced three shot-clock violations and a 10-second violation.

Fourteen players scored for Baldwin — including seventh- graders Raiyah Reid and Renelle Grannum — and each played the disciplined defense that has made the Bruins a force to be reckoned with on the state level.

“Honestly, [Catapano] always tells us whenever he brings us up, ‘One day, the program’s going to be in your hands,’ ” said junior Elena Randolph, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “For years, I’ve been taught to do things the right way.”

Randolph is one of the new members of the starting five, along with Alexis Aponte (eight points), Mariah Benavides (four) and Jamiela Moore (four).

Each of the quartet has experience in the program and saw court time during last year’s state championship run, but with increased responsibilities, they had to learn from Harrison.

“I just try to be a leader and as vocal as I can as a captain,” Harrison said. “I try to develop kids and help them.”

Harrison is the most significant remaining connection to the history-making teams of the past, but the new-look Bruins are ready to forge their own identity.

Said Randolph: “We’re playing with girls who have been in the program for three, four years and giving us a chance to prove for ourselves that we’re ready for the moment.”


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