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Melanie Hingher scores 23 points to pace Massapequa in Nassau Class AA semis

Massapequa's Kole Pollock gets inside in the Nassau

Massapequa's Kole Pollock gets inside in the Nassau girls basketball Class AA semifinal at LIU Post on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2014. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Melanie Hingher and Olivia Batista hardly remember the play itself -- just the intense headache and nausea that followed, and a resulting trip to the hospital.

The teammates had collided, headfirst, while going after a ball on defense and both later were diagnosed with concussions. And immediately, on Jan. 30, Massapequa's chances of defending its Nassau title were in question.

Back to the present.

"I feel great now," Batista said with a grin.

"I feel great now," Hingher said with a grin.

All of the Chiefs, most likely, feel great now.

Hingher, in her second game back, dominated with 23 points and seven rebounds to spark Massapequa's 69-34 win over Mepham in the Nassau Class AA semifinals.

Batista added four points, four steals and three assists for the second-seeded Chiefs (15-3).

"It was pretty scary, seeing them go down and get sick, and knowing we'd be without two of our best players," Carmela Gampero said.

The concussion cost Hingher, a 6-1 forward, three games late in the regular season. And Batista, the primary ballhandler and vocal leader, sat out two.

"Now that they're OK," Gampero continued, "we can kind of look back and laugh at how they ran into each other."

Hingher has shown few, if any, signs of rust and scored 21 points in her return last week, leading Massapequa in the quarterfinals. She set the tone immediately against No. 3 Mepham, too, scoring 10 points in the first quarter as the Chiefs raced to a 22-6 lead.

"Getting those two back was a huge boost going into the playoffs," Rachel Sieber said. "With Mel, you can get her the ball in the post and just let her go to work."

With Hingher and Meghan McCabe (eight points, four assists) drawing attention inside, the perimeter opened and the Chiefs shooters helped them pull away. Sieber scored 11 points, including three three-pointers, Kole Pollock had seven and Gampero six.

"Our coaches did a great job of scouting [Mepham] and our focus was defense," Hingher said. "Our guards did a great job of getting up on their shooters and we got the stops we needed."

Alexa Morris scored 11 points and Megan Anderson nine for the Pirates (14-5).

The Chiefs will face Baldwin in the final at 4 p.m. Saturday at LIU Post.

Massapequa graduated several key players ("and most of us here were on the bench last year," Gampero said), so many wondered if this would be a rebuilding season for the program. Well, another question answered.

"It says we're resilient," Batista said. "It means a lot for us to lose so much talent and come back and be in the same position we were last year."

Without much of a headache.


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