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Gigi Faison, Jada Fernandez spark Elmont to Class A Nassau title

Elmont's Gigi Faison (11) moves the ball in

Elmont's Gigi Faison (11) moves the ball in the first quarter during the the Nassau girls Class A basketball finals on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Hofstra University. Credit: Bob Sorensen

The Elmont girls basketball players don’t let past misses linger.

Just ask Gigi Faison, who stationed herself in the right corner with the score tied and 3:17 remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Nassau A championship game at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex.

Faison had missed open looks earlier, but when point guard Zhaneia Thybulle was met high by two defenders, Faison received the pass and converted a key basket in Elmont’s 50-49 win over North Shore.

“We always say that you can’t look at the last shot you take, and you’re going to make the next one,” said Faison, whose three-pointer broke a 42-42 tie. “I shot the ball, and as soon as I saw it go out of my hand, I said, ‘That’s in.’ ”

Faison made one of two free throws on the next possession, and then Kem Nwabudu scored off the glass, pushing Elmont’s lead to 48-42 with 1:50 remaining. Jada Fernandez’ layup gave the Spartans a 50-44 lead.

Then North Shore’s Gabby Zaffiro hit a long three-pointer from the top of the arc with 27.6 seconds left. On the ensuing Elmont inbound, Paige Barwick stole the ball and found Selena Fortich for an easy basket, cutting the deficit to 50-49.

Elmont turned the ball over and gave North Shore a chance at the buzzer, but the Vikings were unable to score.

“They didn’t stop. They were relentless,” said Nwabudu, who had eight points and 16 rebounds. “There were 27 seconds left and they were still pushing. I commend them for that.”

Part of the reason Faison (15 points), Fernandez (12) and Kiera Holland (nine) were given more responsibility in the offense was because North Shore put extra focus on Nwabudu, a 5-11 center.

Whenever Nwabudu touched the ball, two or more Vikings rushed to her with hopes of preventing her from making an impact on the game.

“I look at that as my teammates are open,” said Nwabudu, who was one of many with tears running down their faces during the postgame celebration. “If three people are on me, then other people are open. If I’m not scoring, that means my teammates are.”

Nwabudu was met with similar defenses throughout the season, and coach Tom Magno said he always encourages her to look to kick the ball out to open shooters.

“This is what it’s supposed to be,” she said. “Our other teammates are supposed to emerge and finish the job for us.”

Spreading the ball around has been a strength for Elmont (22-1). The Spartans have ridden contributions from up and down the roster in its run through Nassau Class A.

“We always share the ball,” Faison said. “That’s how we win games.”

North Shore’s Zaffiro scored a game-high 20 points, while Ashleigh Sheerin added 15 for North Shore (21-2).

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