The Rocks rolled on Monday afternoon.
Sparked by senior point guard Hunter Vertuccio’s 27 points and a strong second half, the East Rockaway girls basketball team captured its second Long Island Class C championship in the last three seasons, defeating Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island, 54-43, at Newfield High School.
“No one expected this of us because we’re a pretty young team and not a lot of girls have had this experience,” Vertuccio said. “Coming out and sticking to the game plan and getting this win feels great.”
Trailing by as many as 10 points early in the first half, the Rocks (9-12) hit their stride midway through the second quarter.
East Rockway pushed through the Whalers’ full-court press, going on a 12-2 run in the final five-and-a-half minutes of the half. Katy Howard capped the run with 1:50 left, making it 22-21 and giving the Rocks a lead they would never surrender.
“All season we’ve been battling the spurts, but once we got over that hurdle in the first, they settled in and found a momentum,” coach Cheri Poland said. “Every basket, they got a little more confidence.”
East Rockaway didn’t slow out of the break. The Rocks used another scoring run to take a 41-27 lead into the fourth quarter, highlighted by Riley O’Hagan’s three three-pointers.
“We were able to see the court better and see where the defense was playing,” said O’Hagan, who finished with 11 points.
Still, the Whalers (14-9) refused to go quietly.
Chastin Giles scored nine of her 22 points in the final six-and-a-half minutes, all from behind the arc, before Meridith Spolarich went 1-for-2 at the line to cut the deficit to four with 2:47 left.
That was as close as Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island would get.
East Rockway held strong late, going on one last run and outscoring the Whalers 9-2 in the last two and a half minutes. Vertuccio went 5-for-8 at the line during the stretch.
Next up, the Rocks will play the winner of Millbrook and Haldane in a state regional final on Sunday at a site to be determined.
“We’re all excited,” Vertuccio said. “We want to make sure we continue to play our game.”