Julia Minafo finally has her shot back.
The senior guard returned to the court this weekend after missing the previous three games with an illness but said she still didn’t feel right upon her return.
Just one game later, Minafo seems to have turned the corner. She drained three first-quarter three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points, leading visiting Island Trees to a 68-50 win over Locust Valley in a Nassau A-V girls basketball game on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been out for a while, I’ve missed a lot of games, so it’s been hard getting my shot back,” Minafo, who made five three-pointers, said. “If I’m set, I tell my team, ‘My shot’s hot.’ ”
Her first-quarter performance was critical to getting Island Trees (6-0) off to a strong start, especially with standout Brianna Fitzgerald drawing most of Locust Valley’s focus. Fitzgerald, Nassau’s leading scorer at 23.9 points per game even after scoring 19 points, managed just eight points in the first half.
Instead, Island Trees and its up-tempo defense relied on others. Cathryn Kramer, who coach Bob Kaible said eclipsed the 1,000-rebound milestone against Mineola on Saturday, scored 12 points and played a factor as a shot-blocker.
Allison Veritzan had eight points, and while Emma Rochanakit only scored four points, she made them count.
Down 29-27 with under one minute left until halftime, Rochanakit grabbed a rebound and hit a short jumper, tying the score. On Locust Valley’s ensuing attempt to cross halfcourt, she picked up a loose ball swiped out by Kathryn Mullin and scored, giving her team the 31-29 edge at halftime.
“That’s huge,” Kramer said. “Clearly, Brianna has been a leader for us, and I think a game like this was kind of good for us to realize that it’s not just about one person, that we really are an entire team.”
Locust Valley (3-1) kept pace with Island Trees for much of the contest, an accomplishment in itself given the Bulldogs’ pressure and speed. A trio of Falcons — Lindsay Hogan (16 points), Julia Sabatino (15) and Sarah Lubow (14) — helped keep Locust Valley within striking distance until the Bulldogs’ 23-point third quarter gave them a 54-38 lead.
Now 14-0 overall, Island Trees has evolved into one of the top teams in Nassau. A fringe contender in years past, there’s nothing fringy about the Bulldogs now.
Said Minafo: “Even though it might have taken us four years to figure it out, we’ve got it now, and we’re rolling with it.”