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Paige O'Brien sparks Locust Valley to Class A girls title

Highlights from No. 2 Locust Valley's 43-34 victory over No. 1 Floral Park in the Nassau Class A girls basketball final on Saturday, March 7, 2020.

In a showdown featuring two undefeated girls basketball powerhouses in the Nassau Class A final for the first time since 1999, Locust Valley made history on Saturday afternoon.

After going 10 years without a county title, Paige O’Brien and her second-seeded Locust Valley teammates captured the program’s first Class A title with a 43-34 victory over top-seeded Floral Park at Farmingdale State.

O’Brien led the Falcons with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Lindsay Hogan contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

O’Brien said Locust Valley wanted to add another year to the championship plaque back at their home gym after going a decade without a county title. She and the Falcons will now get their wish.

“I really wanted to do this for my whole school,” said O’Brien, a senior guard. “We have this big plaque in our gym for conference and county championships. It says 2010 and we’ve been saying, ‘Let’s put a 2020 up there.’ We’ve been thinking about it all season. It was our main goal.”

Locust Valley (23-0) will face Westhampton in the Long Island Class A championship on March 15 at St. Joseph’s College at 2 p.m.

“Floral Park was a great opponent,” O’Brien said. “They had a great season and all respect to them. It was a great game. But we came in positive. We’re a good team all around. And we’re really just determined to win.”

Hogan said the Falcons not only discussed the hype of the undefeated matchup, but also their loss to Floral Park (22-1) in the first round of last season’s Class A playoffs.

“We talked about it so much,” Hogan said. “Especially after losing to them last year in the playoffs. So we definitely had to get our revenge in this game.

Trailing 35-21 entering the fourth quarter after O’Brien made two of Locust Valley’s five three-pointers in the third, Floral Park found life to begin the final period, as the Knights knocked down three consecutive three-pointers to cap an 11-0 run. A three-pointer from Caroline Lubicich — who had 12 points — with 3:24 remaining cut the deficit to 35-32.

Maya Bateau later brought Floral Park to within 38-34 with a mid-range jumper with 1:53 to go, but O’Brien responded with a three-pointer from the left corner 24 seconds later that gave Locust Valley a much-needed lift. The Falcons didn’t surrender another basket the rest of the way, and O’Brien sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left.

“As I’m yelling, ‘No, no, no,’ the ball went through and I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ ” Guidone said of O’Brien’s three-pointer. “There’s nobody I would trust more with the ball in her hands at that point. Even if the shot doesn’t go down. We want her there.”

A layup by Lubicich gave Floral Park a 14-12 advantage with 4:47 left in the second before Locust Valley proceeded to close out the first half on a 6-0 run. Julia Sabatino’s short jumper with 57 seconds to go finished off the spurt after she also knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key and a free throw.

Guidone said an appearance in the Long Island championship is an opportunity he wants his team to relish.

“It’s easy to kind of look ahead and think about the next game,” Guidone said. “I want these girls and our incredible community to enjoy this moment for a while and then we’ll look forward. Just competing for a Long Island championship is beyond our wildest dreams.”

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