Lindsay Hogan, Payton Tini and their Locust Valley teammates walked off the court March 7, 2020 with the same thought every other county champion on Long Island does: Long Island championship.
The team allowed itself 24 hours to celebrate, then it was back to a hard week of practice before that next championship game. But that opportunity never came, as the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the remainder of the 2020 season.
Nearly two years to the date later, top-seeded Locust Valley is celebrating its second-straight county title after defeating No. 2 Cold Spring Harbor, 56-16, in the Nassau Class B girls basketball final at Hofstra on Wednesday.
Locust Valley (21-0) advances to play Greenport/Southold (15-4) in the Long Island Class B final in a state Southeast subregional at Shoreham-Wading River at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Cold Spring Harbor finishes 15-6.
"It’s been the game that was meant to be but hasn’t been able to happen," Tini said. "That’s been going through our minds a lot lately."
The Falcons have been focused all season on finally getting the opportunity to play in that long-awaited Long Island championship with the chance to advance even further in the state tournament.
"We were so pumped that day," Hogan said. "Then we were told the day before the game that it wasn’t going to happen and we were devastated. Just to have another chance to play in a LIC is amazing and we are going to be ready for it."
Hogan had 18 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists and Tini had 14 points and five steals.
Before its matchup with Greenport/Southold, Locust Valley plays Carle Place (16-3) in the Nassau BC championship at 5 p.m. on Friday at Wheatley.
And the Falcons will have a shot at history Friday. Locust Valley won its 52nd straight game Wednesday, which ties the Long Island girls basketball record for most consecutive wins set by Hempstead from 1980-83, according to Newsday records.
"Fifty-two wins is crazy," Hogan said. "And the chance to pass it is an amazing accomplishment."
Coach Michael Guidone has seen the team’s motivation every day at practice to win another county title and go beyond. Locust Valley won the Nassau Class A title in 2020 before dropping to Class B because of enrollment.
"They see all the things people have to go through in the world and the hardships and we are playing basketball," Guidone said. "It’s a treat but anything in life can be taken away in a heartbeat. But if you work hard enough, you can get back in that spot."
Reily Roberts and Olivia Del Tatto each added nine points in the win. Locust Valley used a 19-0 run to take a 22-3 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Falcons opened the third quarter on an 18-0 run to take a 40-6 lead with 3:15 remaining in the period.
"I believe our team is unstoppable when we are all working together," Tini said. "We have amazing chemistry and we’ve been playing together since we were really young. It’s just an unspoken bond we all have."
And just like two years ago, Locust Valley celebrated at midcourt with hopes of traveling to play for a state championship.
"It’s two years coming," Hogan said. "We really wanted this."
"Now we actually get to do it," Tini added. "We get to finish what we started two years ago, hopefully."