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Gabriella Heimbauer’s baskets lift Massapequa to Nassau AA final

Gabriella Heimbauer #23 of Massapequa, right, shoots a

Gabriella Heimbauer #23 of Massapequa, right, shoots a short range jumper as Rachel Mahler #35 of Syosset defends her during the Nassau County varsity girls basketball Class AA semifinals at LIU Post on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Massapequa won by a score of 48-44. Credit: James Escher

The thought of her season ending in February seemed like a nonsensical prospect for Massapequa’s Gabriella Heimbauer. After missing time at the end of the regular season with a sprained ankle, the six foot freshman wanted a chance at a Nassau Class AA title — and she wasn’t going to let her ankle, or a hard fought game against Syosset hold her and her team back.

“We talked at halftime about how far we’d come this season,” Heimbauer said. “To lose this game wouldn’t have made sense.”

Heimbauer scored two big baskets in the fourth quarter of second-seeded Massapequa’s 48-44 win over No. 3 Syosset in a Nassau Class AA girls basketball semifinal Saturday afternoon at LIU-Post. Massapequa (16-5) will face top-seeded Baldwin, who beat No. 4 Freeport in the first game of the semifinal doubleheader, in the Class AA finals March 4 at Hofstra.

Heimbauer led all scorers with 17 points. Kathleen Doherty and Brittny Membreno both scored 10 points. Rachel Mahler had 12 points for Syosset (14-7).

After trailing by two points after three quarters, Massapequa outscored Syosset 13-7 in the fourth. Heimbauer’s lay-up from directly under the hoop with 1:30 left in the game gave the Cheifs a 45-42 lead. Moments later, another Heimbauer lay-in increased the advantage to 47-42.

“I just knew that we needed to get two easy baskets to keep the lead,” Heimbauer said. “Otherwise, the game just would have went all ‘willy-nilly.’ We just needed to secure ourselves.”

Syosset’s Kendall Halpern (11 points) cut the Massapequa lead to three with 45 seconds left, but Morgan Camarda’s free throw with 29.2 second remaining, pushed the lead back to four.

Massapequa trailed 24-23 at halftime — an unfortunate consequence, they believe, of Syosset’s up-tempo pacing, something the Chiefs worked hard to control in the third quarter and finally mastered in the fourth.

“We would force passes and not come to the ball,” Camarda, who scored seven points, said. “It just wasn’t how we usually play. But [in the fourth] we slowed up our offense. We took our time setting screens and trying to get open for each other.”

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