It's tempting to say Garden City's Diana Leondis, who scored a game-high 18 points in last night's 56-45 Conference ABC-I victory over Elmont, is back. But that would be doing the senior point guard, who suffered a high ankle sprain Dec. 28 and played only sparingly since, and her teammates a disservice.
Leondis didn't play at her usual breakneck pace, opting instead to distribute and shoot the three. The new role worked. She was 4-for-4 from both three-point range and the foul line. And despite playing most of the game, she said she wasn't tired.
"It's much better," Leondis said. "It felt so good. I've wanted to play for a while."
That came as a surprise to her coach, Anthony Sparacia, who expected her to be tired. "I'm shocked she was able to do what she did," he said. "I should have given her rest, but I needed her on the floor."
Leondis benefited from great ball movement from teammates, getting open looks each time she attempted a three.
"Everything we did was a team effort," said Leondis, who also had three assists. "Everyone passed the ball so quickly."
And teammates were glad to have their point guard back.
"It's awesome," said Barbara Sullivan, Garden City's leading scorer during the injury. "We were missing her. It was tough filling that empty space."
Big games from Sullivan (14 points, five rebounds, five assists) and sophomores Kim Ryan (12 points) and Christina Mangels (13 rebounds, seven offensive) helped to take the pressure off Leondis. Ryan hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 44-28 after three.
"Kim Ryan has been coming on real well," Sparacia said. "Barbara can do anything. Her motor never stops. Other kids feed off her energy . . . And Mangels in the middle. Holy cow."
Garden City (5-1) took control on a 17-2 run that bridged the first and second quarters and pushed the lead to 26-9. Leondis drilled two three-pointers during that run, including a buzzer-beater in the first quarter.
Elmont (2-5) pulled within 48-41 with just over a minute left, getting big fourth quarters from Reauna Dorner (all six of her points) and Jasmine Cobbs (six of her 17 points). Free throws in the final minute by Ryan, Leondis and Amalia DeBrosse squashed any comeback.
"A couple of times it looked like they were going to knock us down," Elmont coach Tom Magno said. "I'm happy with the effort."