GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Destiny Samuel has cried a lot of happy tears in the last several weeks.
As the Baldwin girls basketball team continues its march toward history at the state Federation Class AA Tournament at Cool Insuring Arena, there have been two constants. First, the incessant pressure defense of the Bruins. Second, Samuel’s emotional displays after each high-profile win.
Samuel contributed across the board in Friday afternoon’s 64-47 semifinal win over Long Island Lutheran, posting nine points, three steals and two rebounds. The Temple commit, a forward, played for Lutheran during her sophomore and junior seasons before suiting up for the Bruins this winter.
Next up is Christ the King at 6 p.m. Saturday in the championship game. Samuel and her teammates watched Christ the King beat South Shore after their win over Lutheran, mentally preparing themselves for the next game while also celebrating their own triumph.
“We got to enjoy it when we watched Christ the King,” Samuel said. “Coach always tells us that it never stops. If we win, we have to prepare for the next game. Once we beat LuHi, we said it was not over.”
Few public-school girls basketball teams have ever sniffed this stage of the season. Only four Long Island girls public school teams have won a Federation title — Glenn (2005), Wyandanch (1983, 1987) and Westbury (1983) — but coach Tom Catapano has his Bruins on the cusp of joining them. Baldwin lost to Mary Louis last year in the Federation semifinal.
Already the first Long Island girls team to capture consecutive state championships, Baldwin wants more.
“At this point, the team is extremely hungry,” Catapano said. “Obviously, we’re a veteran squad. We’re filled with juniors and seniors who have been to this point. They’re just fighting to stay together. Every win means they have another game together.”
Samuel already had chemistry with this group, having played for Catapano on his AAU team for several years with Aziah Hudson, Jenna Annecchiarico and Kaia Harrison. While that trio experienced all the glory of a state title run last year, Samuel was at Lutheran. Now, she’s soaking it all in.
“Coach Cat has been my coach for a very long time,” she said. “Just to win with him my last year means so much to me.”
She’ll have to push the tempo against Christ the King, ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. But if Baldwin has proved nothing else, it’s that it doesn’t shy away from a challenge.