Charlotte Viola #24 of East Meadow, left, and teammate Allie...

Charlotte Viola #24 of East Meadow, left, and teammate Allie Twible react after the Jets' 69-66 win over Manhasset in the Nassau Class AA girls basketball final at Farmingdale State College on Monday, March 4, 2024. Credit: James Escher

Charlotte Viola practiced this exact situation for years. Well, maybe not the exact one.

The East Meadow senior was exactly where she wanted to be with the game on the line – the free-throw line. When she practices her foul shots at home or in a gymnasium, she imagines herself in a situation to decide the game’s outcome. She tells herself “pressure” over and over again so when she finds herself in pressure situations, it’s the norm.

Only this time, it wasn’t manufactured pressure. It was the real stuff. Viola stood on the foul line with eight seconds left with East Meadow holding a one-point advantage with program history at stake.

“It’s not that different,” Viola insisted. “I set up a situation and I practice for this. I tell myself, ‘It’s a tie game, if I make this we win, if I miss this we lose, pressure, pressure, pressure,’ and I shoot it. I practice for this.”

Viola knocked down both foul shots for the game’s final points as No. 7 East Meadow defeated top-seeded Manhasset, 69-66, in the girls basketball Nassau Class AA championship game at Farmingdale State College on Monday. Manhasset missed a shot with two seconds left and the rebound rolled out of bounds as time expired.

“We knew we had the right person at the line,” coach Peter M. Olenik said. “I said at the timeout to the girls that I really wanted the ball in Charlotte’s hand. She’s smooth as silk, she doesn't miss many.”

East Meadow, which defeated each of the top three seeds en route to claiming its first county title in program history, advances to play Westhampton (21-2) in the Long Island Class AA championship/Southeast Regional Final at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at Farmingdale State College.

Allie Twible had 20 points and Viola added 18 points for East Meadow (19-5). Danielle Perfetto had 19 points for Manhasset.

Manhasset (19-4) nearly erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter. East Meadow opened a 61-47 lead with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter after three-pointers by Angelina Cronin, Kayla Lederer and Viola during a 9-1 run. But Manhasset answered with a 17-4 run over four minutes to make it a one-point game before Viola’s foul shots.

East Meadow used a 20-2 run over 5:38 to take a 34-27 lead with 28 seconds left in the second quarter after trailing, 20-12, after the first quarter.

“We knew what we had to do,” Twible said. “We knew they were going to go on runs, we were going to go on runs. Two good basketball teams but in order to win, we had to put our foot on the gas and not let up. And that’s what we did.”

Being labeled as the No. 7 seed only gave East Meadow (19-5) additional motivation throughout the playoffs.

“To be put at such a low ranking when we know we’re a much better team than that really pushed us,” Viola said. “We proved that we are the best team in this (classification).”

And with the victory, the East Meadow girls basketball team will forever have a presence in the school gymnasium.

“There’s not a banner in East Meadow High School that says girls basketball, not one,” Olenik said. “This is the first time ever, so we made history.”

Olenik wasn’t even ready to think about the upcoming Long Island championship. He and the Jets wanted to soak in taking home the program’s first county title before the next step.

“It’s a great win for East Meadow, it’s a great win for the community and the school,” he added. “It’s a buzz, everything’s a buzz right now and we’re the buzz. It’s nice to be that for once.”

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