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Kaela Hilaire’s 37 points help Floral Park win county title

Floral Park's Kaela Hilaire looks up the middle

Floral Park's Kaela Hilaire looks up the middle during the Nassau Class A girls basketball final as Floral Park defeated Elmont at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York on Feb. 27, 2016. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Not even Kaela Hilaire was able to work her way out of this crowd.

Known for her quickness — along with her impressive ballhandling ability — that allows her to manipulate through traffic on the court, this was a rare occasion when Hilaire was trapped.

But this time it was fans who had stormed the court to engulf her. This was just moments after Hilaire had 37 points and seven assists to lift No. 2 Floral Park to a 60-49 win over top-seeded Elmont on Saturday in the Nassau Class A girls basketball championship game at Adelphi University.

“That’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” she said of the fans rushing the court. “That’s what high school basketball is all about. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.”

Kem Nwabudu’s jumper from the free-throw line cut what once was a 14-point Floral Park lead to 45-41 with 5:02 remaining. But Hilaire responded with a long pull-up jumper and, on the ensuing possession, a straightaway three-pointer to increase the lead to 50-41.

A three from the left wing by Marykate Guerriero opened a 53-43 lead with 2:51 left. After a pull-up jumper by Gigi Faison cut the deficit to eight with two minutes left, Hilaire cut across the paint, drawing help defenders with her. She then delivered a behind-the-back pass to Faith Balletta, who converted a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Floral Park had its first county title since 2009.

“It’s hard to tell when Kaela will give you the ball, so you need to be ready,” said Balletta, who had 10 points. “When she gave me that ball I was like, ‘This is my chance!’ ”

Nwabuda and Faison each had 14 points and Zhaneia Thybulle added 10 for Elmont (21-2). The Spartans were unable to overcome a fast start by Hilaire, who scored 10 points in the first quarter, including two of her four threes, as the Knights opened a 16-2 lead.

Floral Park (22-1) will play Islip in the Long Island Class A championship game at noon Saturday at St. Joseph’s College.

As the celebration continued yesterday, Hilaire again found herself trapped. This time, though, she was circled by a group of children asking for her autograph.

“Hopefully someday these kids are playing high school basketball for Floral Park and winning championships,” she said. “Because this really means a lot. We finally took it home.”

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