For the past four years, Mercy’s Melina Santacroce and Caryn Nabrizny have had one goal — winning a Suffolk title for the girls basketball team.
After three straight years in the playoffs and with the top-seeded Monarch’s 15th win of the 2017-18 season, they can add Suffolk Class C champions to their resume after defeating No. 3 Stony Brook, 51-28, Monday at Suffolk CCC-Selden.
“It’s great knowing all of our hard work this season has paid off,” Santacroce said. “In the beginning of the season, we said we would win the league and the class championship and we did just that.”
Santacroce and Nabrizny are the only seniors on the team and their leadership showed. Santacroce played aggressively, looking for her teammates while trying to find space, and Nabrizny constantly shouted out plays and defenses while boosting the team’s moral.
“The win is probably the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever experienced,” Nabrizny said. “This is my senior year and everything is coming to an end with playoffs. I can say this is the best thing that’s happened out of my whole high school career.”
Mercy’s defense was a big factor with Santacroce and Nabrizny each collecting six steals. Santacroce’s first points came off a steal by teammate Karina Ellis. Nabrizny stole an inbounds pass, which lead to her first score.
“We always try to stay focused, stay agile, and that leads to steals,” Santacroce said.
Said Nabrizny: “We came into this knowing we had to shut down Beth [Felix, of Stony Brook] and once we did that everything would fall into place.”
Felix was kept in check early but got hot late, scoring all of her 11 points in the second half.
Santacroce finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and the six steals. She made 11 of those points in the third quarter.
Nabrizny had nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, along with her six steals. Ellis and Santacroce’s sister, Gianna, both had six points.
Mercy will face Mattiuck next Tuesday in the Class B/C championship.
But first the team has to celebrate its Class C win.
This is the first time Mercy has won a county championship since 2004, when coach Meaghan Smith was a freshman on the team.
“We set our sights on it from moment one, day one of practice,” Smith said. “We wanted the county title. We wanted that banner and the girls put the work in.”
“Fourteen years is a long time,” Santacroce said. “It’s great to bring a championship home.”