Aziah Hudson is always one step ahead. Literally.
“What separates her from really everyone else is her first step,” Baldwin girls basketball coach Tom Catapano said. “I think she has the best first step on the Island.”
Hudson certainly stepped up Saturday, helping the Bruins capture a third straight Nassau County title. Difficult to contain in transition or while attacking the basket, the sophomore guard scored a season-high 34 points to help top-seeded Baldwin defeat No. 2 Massapequa, 57-37, in the Class AA final at Adelphi University.
“Honestly, we were all hungry,” Hudson said. “I was very hungry to win and I wasn’t stopping. When I’m hot and I’m going to the rim and it’s going in, I’m going to keep going.”
Which is exactly what she did, step by step, early on, scoring 14 points in the first quarter to help Baldwin open a 17-6 lead.
Hudson also scored eight straight points for the Bruins to close the second quarter. She converted a layup and drew the blocking foul for a three-point play that increased the lead to 24-15 with 1:14 left in the half. Next time on offense, she hit a three-pointer to increase the lead to 12. She then converted a layup on a hesitation dribble drive just before the buzzer to send Baldwin into the break with a 29-17 lead.
“People tell me my first step is very unstoppable,” said Hudson, who also had seven rebounds. “When I go to the basket, I seem to blow by people.”
The cushion that Hudson’s offensive explosion provided was more than enough support for Baldwin’s signature pressure defense. With ballhawks like Hudson, Jenna Annecchiarico, Kaia Harrison, and Montia Moon locking down the perimeter, and Lames El Gammal patrolling the paint, taking even a single step can be a challenge against the smothering, turnover-inducing defense.
“What helped us dominate was our fire,” El Gammal said. “Winning three straight is something that our school has never done. That’s history made.”
Annecchiarico scored all 11 of her points in the second half, including a pair of threes to open the third quarter.
Melanie Hingher had 21 points and four blocks, and Kole Pollock added 14 points for Massapequa (18-4), which fell to Baldwin in each of the last three county championship games.
Baldwin (20-2) faces Commack in the Long Island championship on March 5 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College in a rematch of last season’s title game, which the Bruins lost by one point.
“We just want to keep winning because that’s what we do best,” Hudson said. “We know what we want to accomplish and we are determined to get there.”
One step at a time.