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Tatiana Stevens leads Longwood to first Suffolk title in program history

Longwood with its Suffolk overall championship plaque and

Longwood with its Suffolk overall championship plaque and game ball after defeating Mount Sinai. Credit: George A. Faella

Tatiana Stevens downplayed her performance.

“I was just getting into seams,” she said.

Stevens did more than that. Her vision found the openings, but it was her talent that finished it off for the Longwood girls basketball team. She had 29 points — 20 in the first half — as Longwood defeated Mount Sinai, 70-45, in the Suffolk overall championship on Wednesday night at Whitman.

It's Longwood’s first Suffolk title in program history.

The senior forward bruised her way through the paint and even stretched out just inside the arc for a long jumper to show off her offensive skill set. She also grabbed nine rebounds.

“She’s a bucket,” junior point guard Janelle Brown said of how automatic Stevens was in the game. “I just kept feeding her. I knew that she was going to be open on the drive.”

Brown (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds) sliced through the Mustangs on the dribble-drive, often delivering close passes to Stevens for the easy baskets. Stevens entered play averaging 8.9 points per game, and her previous season-high was 17 against Ward Melville on Dec. 17.

Longwood (22-2) jumped to an early 20-6 lead on Brown’s three-pointer from the right wing, but Gabby Sartori’s three-point play early in the second quarter trimmed the deficit to 24-19 for Mount Sinai (21-4).

Margaret Kopceinski drained three-pointers to end the first half and begin the second half, as the Mustangs looked to build steam facing a 37-29 deficit. Sartori (15 points) and Brooke Cergol (12) also made three-pointers in the third quarter for the Mustangs, but Longwood closed the quarter on a 9-1 run — capped by Rachel Mandaro’s short bucket off the glass — and led 53-36 entering the fourth quarter.

“We hit a lot of our shots,” Brown said. “In the second quarter, we started to settle for a couple  shots but we got it together.”

Much of their open looks came from unselfish play. The Lions assisted 18 of their 25 field goals, with Brown’s seven leading. Nyia Longford chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Taydra Simpson contributed 10 rebounds and four assists.

“All the assists that we had, we just look for each other,” Brown said. “We have confidence in each other.”

Longwood will need that ball movement at 2 p.m. on March 9 at Farmingdale State in the Long Island Class AA championship against the Baldwin/Syosset winner, as both teams run a trapping press that stifles offenses. Mount Sinai will play in the Long Island Class A championship at noon the same day.

“I have to keep my eyes open and my hands ready,” said Stevens, again downplaying her performance.

It was enough to propel Longwood to history.

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