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Burke's 4 late free throws lift South Side girls

Wantagh's Meaghan Smith (30, right), tries to stop

Wantagh's Meaghan Smith (30, right), tries to stop South Side's Colleen Burke (23, left) as she tries to pass to a team mate before stepping out of bounds. (January 20, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Photo by Richard Slattery

The announcement came at 8 p.m., early in the second overtime, from Wantagh's always entertaining public address announcer: "Only 12 hours until homeroom."

The back-and-forth Conference ABC-I game was threatening to head into a third overtime. Colleen Burke and her South Side teammates made sure that didn't happen. After all, it was a school night.

"I have to get home and study math," Burke said, laughing.

Burke went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final minute of double overtime to help the visiting Cyclones defeat Wantagh, 62-57, last night. Burke's first two extended the lead to 58-54. Her next two put the game away with nine seconds left.

"That was huge," South Side coach Kendall Richards said. "I purposely put the ball in her hands. When she gets fouled, I know she'll make it."

Burke (13 points) didn't share her coach's confidence: "I was pretty nervous, I'm not gonna lie."

Burke attributed her success to the "make your free throws or run'' drills at every practice. "It's that or a water break," Burke said. "So we like to make them."

Christina Merrifield (17 points) scored South Side's first six points in the second OT, including a basket with a minute left to make it 56-54. Burke hit two free throws and Sam Morin took a steal end to end, increasing the lead to 60-54. Jackie Sileo, who had all seven Wantagh points in the second overtime, drilled a three to make it a one-score game, but Burke's two foul shots closed it out.

South Side needed big baskets at the end of the first overtime (Megan Lonergan's runner with less than 20 seconds left) and regulation (a three by Caitlyn Wallace with 28 seconds left).

Lonergan (14 points), South Side's leading scorer in regulation, was held scoreless in the second overtime and played with four fouls. Despite her foul trouble, she helped shut out Wantagh's top scorer, Kaleigh Craig (24 points), in the second overtime. Lonergan said the part of her game that suffered most was crashing the offensive boards after a free throw.

Burke made that unnecessary, and just in time. Lonergan said she didn't know if she could have avoided a fifth foul in another overtime. She also didn't know if she could have made it to school after another OT.

Joked Lonergan: "I think I would have had to take a mental health day."

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