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Julia Sabatino scores 1,000th point in Locust Valley victory

Julia Sabatino of Locust Valley gets congratulated by

Julia Sabatino of Locust Valley gets congratulated by teammate Paige O'Brien after scoring her 1,000th career point in a Nassau County girls basketball game against Island Trees in Levittown on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. Credit: James Escher

The tone-setters were back at it again Thursday night. Catch them if you can.

Few girls basketball teams on Long Island get out of the blocks like Locust Valley. The opponent tasked with keeping up this time was host Island Trees, and the race felt very much over after less than a dozen possessions.

The fast-breaking Falcons were on the break off the jump ball for a three-point play. They got a steal on the ensuing possession and turned it into a three-pointer. Another steal transitioned into a layup, another went for a pull-up jumper and a third led to a short banker.

In less than two minutes, it was 12-0. Locust Valley was off to a 70-33 Nassau A-V victory that extended its record to 15-0 overall and 8-0 in the conference.

Locust Valley hasn’t trailed at the end of a first quarter and has outscored foes 321-133 in opening frames.

“We start fast and it can make the other team feel like it’s out of a game early,” senior guard Paige O’Brien said. Added senior guard Julia Sabatino, “Opening that lead — if we get on a run — definitely will weaken a team.”

Strong as the start was against a Bulldogs team that is battling since losing star Brianna Fitzgerald to a knee injury, the moment of the game belonged to Sabatino. She hit a turnaround jumper with 7:32 left in the game for her 1,000th point, prompting the Falcons fans in attendance to erupt with cheers.

“I’d missed a bunch of shots with the chance to get it,” said Sabatino, who had 15 points. “It kind of got in my head.”

O’Brien scored 21 and is nine points shy of the same milestone. Falcons freshman Payton Tini led all scorers with 22 points.

Junior swingman Madison McCormick scored 18 for Island Trees (7-8, 4-5).

Sophomore Lindsay Hogan joins O’Brien, Sabatino and Tini to give Locust Valley a quartet of double-figure scorers, and that scoring depth — coach Michael Guidone said, “You never know which one of them will get you on any given night” — has propelled it into a contender for the top seeding in the Nassau Class A tournament.

“This is the team I’ve been waiting for since I started playing basketball,” Sabatino said.

Said Guidone, “We thought we’d have a good season and take a step forward, but I didn’t expect us to be undefeated at this point, given the number of tough teams we play in non-conference games. When we swept the non-conference, I thought maybe something special was happening. When we handled Island Trees when [Fitzgerald] was playing, I knew it.”

Even though Island Trees was able to stop the baseball-pass breaks that hurt it in the teams’ first meeting, it still made enough turnovers against the pressing and trapping Falcons to let them run.

“We have four guards and that allows us to score in transition, and the fact that all our big scorers are unselfish has really lifted us,” Guidone said. “It’s been a special season so far and we hope it stays that way.”

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