The Locust Valley girls basketball team has lost a lot since March 2020. But it never has fallen short on a scoreboard.
In March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Falcons lost a chance to play for the Long Island Class A championship and potentially travel to the state tournament. They lost the opportunity to defend their county championship in 2021 because the pandemic led to a one-month, eight-game season with no playoffs.
But the players focused on what they could control: their play on the court. And they made history in the process.
Locust Valley earned its 53rd straight victory — a Long Island girls basketball record for consecutive wins — when it defeated Carle Place, 43-29, in the Nassau Class B/C girls basketball championship game at Wheatley High School on Friday evening. The Falcons had matched Hempstead’s run of 52 straight wins from 1980-83, according to Newsday records.
"They never let any of that get them down," coach Michael Guidone said of the disappointments produced by the pandemic. "They used that as motivation to say, ‘We are going to get back to that and go forward.’ They could have very easily hung their heads, but they used that motivation and said, ‘OK, it happened. It’s not anybody’s fault, but here we go and we have it in front of us.’ It really is just like a refusal to lose."
The Falcons’ last loss came on Feb. 15, 2019, against Floral Park in the first round of the Nassau Class A playoffs. They went 23-0 in the 2019-20 season — defeating Floral Park, 43-34, in the Nassau Class A final on March 7, 2020 — before going 8-0 in 2021. They are 22-0 this season.
"We lost out on so much and that just made us drive even harder to get this record and get this far," senior guard Amber Linden said. "We’ve accomplished so much and I’m very proud of it."
Lindsay Hogan led Locust Valley with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Hogan, a key part of the Falcons’ 2020 county championship team, said she would have had a hard time believing the program would set the LI record.
"I probably wouldn’t believe it," Hogan said. "But now that we’ve accomplished everything we have with the hard work we put in at practice, I believe it after all these hours in the gym."
The season isn’t over for either team. Locust Valley plays Greenport/Southold (15-4) in the Long Island Class B final in a state Southeast subregional at Shoreham-Wading River High School at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Carle Place (16-4) plays Port Jefferson in the Long Island Class C final in a state Southeast subregional on the same court at 6:30 p.m.
Hogan said the team tried not to think of the winning streak, but after losing the chance for multiple championships, the Falcons appreciated each game even more.
"It gave us a little more motivation," she said. "Last year, having only eight games, although we were lucky to get those eight games in, it made us more hungry to win these games this year. We didn’t even think about breaking a record."
Payton Tini added 12 points, Olivia Del Tatto had eight points and 20 rebounds, Reily Roberts had six points and four rebounds and Linden had four points, six rebounds and two steals for Locust Valley.
Amanda Leary had 16 points for Carle Place.
Locust Valley scored the game’s first 18 points and took a 35-11 lead into halftime. Said Hogan, "We knew we had the record on the line. We didn’t want to think about the record and the pressure behind it, but we wanted to get off to a hot start."
Guidone said he’d be lying if he said he thought during the 2019-20 season that the Falcons would win 53 straight games. But with the right combination of chemistry, commitment, talent and some luck (as Guidone noted), Locust Valley did just that.
"Everyone that’s played has a little bit of ownership in this," Guidone said. "From scratching and clawing to get into the [Class] A playoffs to where we are now, everyone has a piece in it. Whether you are a 20-points scorer or getting in at the end of the game.
"We told them you can accomplish anything in life when you have this type of togetherness. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was beyond our wildest dreams."