Deanna Molinelli had visions of playing in the postseason a year ago, but it was more of a dream than a realistic expectation. The Miller Place junior point guard hoped it would be different this season.
"We have always talked about it and it never happened," Molinelli said. "I thought about it more this year."
And Molinelli played a key role in helping Miller Place clinch its first playoff berth since 2002. She scored nine of her 14 points in the fourth quarter in a 56-52 win over visiting Shoreham-Wading River last night in a Suffolk League VI game.
Kaitlin O'Connor scored a season-high 15 points and Dana Giannone had 14 for Miller Place (10-4, 7-3).
"I didn't think we would have seven wins this quickly," Molinelli said. "It's a shock to everyone. We're coming around."
The game was tight throughout with the lead changing hands several times in the first three quarters.
Molinelli opened the fourth quarter with a runner to give Miller Place a 35-33 lead. O'Connor scored on a putback and Giannone hit two free throws to make it 39-33. Molinelli gave Miller Place its biggest lead of the game at 44-36 by going 3-for-3 from the free-throw line with 3:57 left.
But Samantha Villafranca, who had 28 points, scored nine points the rest of the way as she tried to rally SWR (11-3, 7-3). She hit two free throws with 1:13 left to bring SWR within two before Molinelli scored on a runner in the lane with 1:02 left to make it 52-48.
"I was trying to take it to the basket to get a foul because I knew Villafranca had four fouls," Molinelli said. "It was also a one-and-one."
Miller Place coach Liz Borsetti said: "Deanna realized the game was on the line and rose to the occasion."
Giannone extended the lead to 54-48 with a runner off the glass with 39 seconds left, and Miller Place held on.
"They did a good job passing over the trap," SWR coach Dennis Haughney said. "We usually get a lot of turnovers off of it and we can dictate the game with our defense. Their guards did a good job getting it over the first level and once they did, we were scrambling a little bit."
Mount Sinai, which won last night, leads the league with an 8-2 mark. Miller Place, SWR and Glenn are tied at 7-3.
"It's a little surprising for us," O'Connor said. "We're getting contributions from everyone. The league has been a challenge."