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Julianna Kissane fuels Wantagh to win first playoff game in three years

Julianna Kissane #22 of Wantagh and Katie McMahon

Julianna Kissane #22 of Wantagh and Katie McMahon #11 of South Side battle in a Nassau High School girls basketball Class A second round playoff game between Wantagh and South Side at Wantagh High School, Feb. 16, 2018. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

It was less than a two-and-a-half-minute stretch, but for the Wantagh girls basketball team, it made a world of difference on Friday night.

Powered by a high-octane 16-0 run to close out the first half, the No. 7 Warriors knocked off No. 10 South Side, 67-50, in the first round of the Nassau Class A playoffs.

“We try to push the ball because we believe we can run everybody off the court, so we just have to do that,” said Julianna Kissane, who scored 11 of her 19 points during the quick stretch. “That’s how we win. It really helped that my shot was on and I was able to just drive to the basket and go.”

South Side hung tight until late in the second quarter, trailing 23-18 before Wantagh unleashed the game-changing flurry. Kissane jump-started the spurt with a layup at the 2:27 mark, and ended the run by knocking down a three-pointer from the left wing less than two seconds before the buzzer.

By the time the Cyclones caught its breath, the Warriors had taken a commanding 39-18 advantage into the locker room.

“We’ve been clicking offensively as the year’s gone on,” Wantagh coach Stan Bujacich said. “Everybody’s in a good frame of mind and the chemistry’s great.”

The victory produced an emotion Wantagh had not experienced for quite some time as the Warriors picked up their first postseason win since 2015.

“It’s really exciting,” said Caitlin Albanese, who attacked the rim relentlessly en route to a game-high 25 points. “But it’s one win so we have to prepare for the next one.”

Wantagh (14-6) will host No. 15 Locust Valley in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Jenna Lopez led South Side with 13 points and Katie McMahon added 12. The Cyclones were unable to pull within single digits in the second half, cutting the deficit to 10 with 1:55 remaining in the final game of a 16-5 season.

While the offense was free-flowing for Wantagh throughout the night, Bujacich also praised the Warriors’ effort on the defensive end.

“Especially in the second quarter, we were helping the middle defensively and getting the 50-50 ball,” Bujacich said.

After its first taste of postseason success in three years, Wantagh now embraces a new role.

“We’re the underdogs,” Albanese said. “No one really knows who we are. It’s cool though. I like that we’re under the radar.”

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