Kaela Hilaire had difficulty catching her breath. Sure, playing four quarters had her winded, but a bad cold was the real culprit. “It’s hard for me to breathe,” she said. “But I knew how important this game was.”
Hilaire, who could be seen blowing her nose on the sideline between teammates’ free throws, had 39 points, eight assists and five steals in No. 2 Floral Park’s 69-62 win over No. 3 North Shore in a Nassau Class A semifinal Sunday at LIU Post.
It was a typical game for Hilaire, despite her atypical condition, because her 30.1-point average leads the county. The Vikings brought defenders high, but the 5-3 point guard shook them and drove to the basket. They put hands in her face along the perimeter, but she made threes off the dribble.
In the rare instances Hilaire was contained, she passed to open teammates. Natalie Hickman (15 points) was one such beneficiary, making three open corner threes in the first quarter. Floral Park took a 38-27 lead into the half and finished the third ahead 52-43.
The Knights came out firing in the fourth, opening on a 12-3 run, but the Vikings didn’t fret while facing a 64-46 deficit. Ashleigh Sheerin (23 points), Gabby Zaffiro (15), Kelly Johansen (11) and Jessica Scuderi (seven) led North Shore on a 16-1 run, bringing the Vikings (17-4) back into the game. They trailed 65-62 with less than a minute to play, but Floral Park iced it with four free throws from Hilaire.
“It’s a typical North Shore-Floral Park game,” Floral Park coach Mike Spina said. “Neither team ever gives up. I love playing them as much as I hate playing them.”
After defeating the defending Long Island Class A champs, Floral Park (21-1) will face No. 1 Elmont in the Nassau A final Saturday at SUNY Old Westbury.
“The pressure was a little intense, but we fought through it,” Hilaire said. “As we fight, we get better.”