Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson (2) moves the ball against Cicero-North Syracuse...

Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson (2) moves the ball against Cicero-North Syracuse during the state Class AA semifinal girls basketball game on March 18, 2022, in Troy, N.Y. Credit: Newsday/Hans Pennink

TROY, N.Y. — Nothing was going to get in Baldwin’s way Friday.

This was the moment the Baldwin girls basketball team had waited for since the COVID-19 pandemic took away its Long Island Class AA championship opportunity in March 2020 and canceled the 2021 state tournament.

All the Bruins needed was one more victory and they’d be playing for a state title. And in a contest with 15 ties and nine lead changes, Baldwin saw a three-pointer as time expired in overtime miss to give the Bruins a 56-54 victory over Cicero-North Syracuse in the state girls basketball Class AA semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College Friday.

"We’re here," said junior Dallysshya Moreno, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds, with a giant smile. "I’ve said it before, we’re here and we’re here to stay and we’re not done. We still have one more and then we are going out on our own terms this year, no matter what. Not COVID, not anybody else stopping us, it’s just us ending our season with a ‘W.’ "

Baldwin (18-4) advances to play Bishop Kearney (20-3) in the state Class AA final at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Hudson Valley CC. Cicero-North Syracuse finished 17-6.

The Bruins scored the first six points of overtime after Cicero-North Syracuse’s Alita Carey-Santangelo’s basket with 36 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter tied the score at 50.

"Coach [Tom Catapano] told us this is a really good team and I give them a lot of credit," sophomore Renelle Grannum said. "They didn’t back down to us, we didn’t back down to them. We were built for this moment and it came down to little plays and we pushed through at the end."

Grannum was in the middle of many of those plays. She hit a corner three-pointer as time expired in the second quarter to give Baldwin a 24-23 lead heading into halftime and finished with 15 points.

"It gave my team more confidence," Grannum said. "We all depend on each other, we get excited for each other. We all have our big plays and we feed off each other’s energy."

Junior Katelyn Simpson finished with a game-high 17 points and guarded Cicero-North Syracuse’s top scorer throughout the contest. Catapano credited Simpson’s defense as a key part of the victory and Simpson also hit two foul shots with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Baldwin a 50-48 lead before Carey-Santangelo’s basket forced overtime.

During the sometimes chaotic moments of the back-and-forth semifinal Friday, Simpson thought back to practice. Because nothing compares to some of Baldwin’s challenging practices.

"When practice gets hard, you feel like quitting," Simpson said. "But you keep going when you feel like you are underwater and you feel like you are drowning. Then you put your head up above water and come out with the win. I feel like that’s what got us this win."

Moreno scored seven of her 14 points in the third quarter as the Bruins relied on a largely balanced scoring attack.

"We have heavy hitters everywhere," Moreno said. "You pick which one you want to guard the most and the other ones will do what they have to do."

Baldwin trailed 48-44 with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter before going on a 6-0 run. The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 40.

"This group has shown all year long that they are resilient and they fought," Catapano said … "I’m just so proud of what these young ladies have been able to accomplish this season."

The Bruins only start one senior in Paris Nosworthy, who had six points. But Catapano has seen the team come together throughout the season and play tough with older teams.

"We’re playing our best basketball right now," Catapano said. "I think the team is confident. We have a very young roster but they found their way. They found their identity and I think they’re very, very confident and they are a scary team at this point of the year."

And Baldwin is determined to write its own ending.

"We will go out on our own terms, not someone kicking us out of our own season," Moreno said. "So let’s get it on."

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