East Meadow's Charlotte Viola puts up the shot in front...

East Meadow's Charlotte Viola puts up the shot in front of the defending Sara Kealy of MacArthur during a Nassau Class AA semifinal at SUNY Farmingdale on Monday, February 26, 2024. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The players and coaches on the East Meadow girls basketball team felt a certain type of way when the postseason brackets were released. And now everyone that has taken the court against them has felt their wrath.

The Jets were the seventh seed in the Nassau Class AA playoffs, but no one at East Meadow believed there were six teams better than them.

“We knew from the beginning we were seeded lower than we should have been and we’re proving it now,” said senior guard Charlotte Viola. “That’s why we’re coming out so strong every day because we have something to prove.”

Not only have they proved that this postseason, they've left no doubt.

The Jets defeated No. 3 MacArthur, 60-25, in a dominant performance in the girls basketball Nassau Class AA semifinals at Farmingdale State College Monday night. East Meadow used an 11-0 run over the first 1:36 of the second quarter to open an 18-5 lead. After holding a 30-14 advantage at halftime, the Jets began the third on a 14-0 run to take a 41-14 lead with 5:10 left in the quarter.

“We just knew if we came in playing our game, the way we’ve been playing lately, we’d be tough to beat,” coach Peter M. Olenik said. “We’re playing the best basketball of the season right now and it’s a good time to be doing that.”

East Meadow (18-5) advances to play top-seeded Manhasset (19-3) in the Nassau Class AA final on Monday, March 4 at 5 p.m. at Farmingdale State. This was East Meadow’s first appearance in a semifinal in program history, Olenik said, as it chases its first county crown. MacArthur finished 18-4.

Viola led all scorers with 19 points. Angelina Cronin added 17 points as East Meadow outscored MacArthur 17-2 in the fourth quarter.

“I think it’s fun being the underdog and it’s fun getting on top of these teams that probably think they’ll beat you,” Viola said. “And then to beat them, there’s just no greater feeling.”

East Meadow avenged its two regular-season losses to MacArthur. Olenik credited the third meeting’s drastic difference to confidence. The players said they felt extremely prepared and learned from the previous matchups.

“We knew them,” Viola said. “We knew this team, we knew the girls, we knew how they played and we just came out ready for them and ready for every play they were going to have. We were ready.”

East Meadow defeated No. 2 Garden City, 56-55, in the quarterfinals.

“We weren’t a seven seed,” Olenik said. “We were better than a seven seed and I think we’ve proven that by beating Garden City, the No. 2 seed and now MacArthur, the No. 3 seed. That just proves we were a better team than what they seeded us at. But listen, [the seeding committee has] a tough job to do, they have to do what they have to do.”

Kayla Lederer added 11 points and Allie Twible had seven points for the Jets

“Our goal was to start out and attack and then we got on a run,” Cronin said. “That got them a little off balance, so that was really good. We moved the ball and ball movement is key and defense is key and we just did a great job.”

“I’d never expect to win by [35] points against a MacArthur team,” Olenik said. “They are all fight, grit and determination, so all the credit to them. They had a great season, but it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season.”

East Meadow will need to knock off its third straight higher seed if it hopes to take home the first county title in program history. Manhasset won both the Nassau Class A and Long Island Class A title last season, and due to realignments and the introduction of Class AAA by the NYSPHSAA, Manhasset moved up to Class AA.

“First time the school’s been in the county championship so we’re going to be preparing all week,” Viola said. “And we’re going to be ready on Monday.”

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