Baldwin reaches Nassau 'AA' final as it seeks ninth straight girls basketball crown
The Baldwin girls basketball team’s quest for a ninth straight Nassau Class AA title continues into the final after the top-seeded Bruins defeated No. 4 Freeport, 56-34, in the semifinals at Farmingdale State on Friday evening.
“I’m happy to continue the legacy,” said Payton Dulin, who led Baldwin with 19 points. “We’re excited to get back there. We work a lot the whole entire year, but this is where we start going really hard.”
Baldwin (20-2) will play second-seeded Massapequa for the championship at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday at Hofstra. Baldwin has won the last eight Nassau Class AA crowns and has captured three Long Island Class AA championships in that span.
The Bruins received contributions from all different grades, even extending outside of the high school. Eighth-grader Chinaya Okogeri had 12 of her 14 points in the second quarter as Baldwin outscored Freeport 15-8 to take a 27-19 lead at halftime.
“At halftime, I said, ‘Chinaya Okogeri, who would have thought?’ ’’ coach Tom Catapano said. “On this stage, she was not scared of the moment at all. She’s going to be special.”
Dulin, a sophomore, scored nine points in the third quarter as Baldwin opened a 42-24 lead. She had seven points in the first quarter but was held without a point in the final 11 minutes of the first half.
“Things started to really come together in the second half. We had a slow start,” Dulin said. “I had a rough first half. I had to pick it up.”
Taneece Wooden had 11 points for Freeport (18-4). Katelyn Simpson added eight points for Baldwin.
“Freeport had a great team this year and we knew it was going to be a war,” Catapano said. “I think you saw that first quarter, second quarter and the second half we picked it up a little bit. But hats off to Coach [Meredith] Jones and Freeport. They were a tough team.”
This season hasn’t been easy for the Bruins, who reached the state Class AA final last winter before losing to Bishop Kearney, 63-57.
Baldwin had three players suffer ACL tears since the end of last season, including Dallysshya Moreno, who was an All-Long Island selection last year as a junior. Moreno, committed to play at Stony Brook, hasn’t played all season after averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks last season.
“Every group is different. I’m super-proud of this group,” Catapano said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity, and for these kids to continue the legacy, as their coach, I could not be more proud.”
This year’s group hopes to end like that past eight – and possibly advance even further than the others.
“We all feel like we have to win because we have a legacy behind us,” Dulin said. “We have a winning streak so we want to win another county championship.”