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Baldwin’s Aziah Hudson too explosive for Hicksville

Aziah Hudson of Baldwin looks to drive to

Aziah Hudson of Baldwin looks to drive to the hoop during a Nassau County AA-II varsity girls basketball game against host Hicksville High School on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. She scored a game-high 19 points in Baldwin's 68-27 win. Credit: James Escher

Aziah Hudson may have forgotten to pack her shorts, but she carries her quick first step and explosive moves to the basket with her everywhere she goes.

The Baldwin guard dazzled the crowd with 19 points and five steals in leading the Bruins to a 68-27 win over host Hicksville on Friday night in Nassau AA-II. She converted layups in traffic that left fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

Fortunately for Baldwin, someone was able to bring her an extra pair of shorts before tipoff. Otherwise, the Bruins would have been without a key cog in their fast-paced offense.

“Aziah has a tremendous first step, and she can get to the rim against pretty much anybody,” coach Tom Catapano said. “In transition, she’s as good as anybody on the Island.”

Constant pressure defense was the key for the Bruins. As soon as Hicksville inbounded the ball, two or three Bruins came flying in to trap. Nearly every time, one of those Bruins was Jenna Annecchiarico.

She found easy transition baskets off her own steals, finishing with 13 points, seven assists and five steals. Her ballhandling confounded whoever guarded her, and her quick hands on defense were a nuisance for the Comets.

Baldwin’s philosophy is that aggressive defense forces turnovers, which allows the Bruins to score before the opposing defense can get set.

“Defense is always before offense,” Hudson said. “That’s our motto in Baldwin.”

Catapano said his team spends up to half of his practices focusing on defense, including what Annecchiarico said is called the “Vegas” defense. That’s the press that forced Hicksville (9-7, 5-2 AA-II) into multiple 10-second calls and gave the Bruins fast-break chances.

Baldwin (12-0, 7-0 AA-II) was similarly proficient in the half-court offense, with Annecchiarico, Montia Moon (three points, 10 rebounds), Kayla Brown (six points, 10 rebounds) and Kaia Harrison (eight points) finding open shooters and slashers with regularity.

Annecchiarico, who usually controls the ball in the half-court offense, said she always knows exactly whom to look for — Hudson.

“I give her the ball all the time,’’ she said, “because I know she’s going to finish it.”

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