Longwood players celebrate with their championship plaque after their win...

Longwood players celebrate with their championship plaque after their win against Northport for the Suffolk Class AA girls basketball championship on Saturday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Longwood section of the crowd erupted when Taydra Simpson high-fived her coach and stepped off the court. With the reserves entering the game, the sweet taste of victory was just seconds away.

Longwood beat Northport, 65-54, in the Suffolk Class AA girls basketball final Saturday afternoon at Smithtown East High School. The top-seeded Lions were led by Simpson with 28 points. Giselle Harris scored 15 points. The No. 2 Lady Tigers were paced by Sophia Yearwood’s 15 points.

Simpson was visibly frustrated early on. The senior’s early struggles reached their peak during a sequence where she missed three shots at the rim on a single trip down the floor.

Yearwood came out hot for Northport (21-2) by drilling three shots from long distance as Northport took a 21-11 lead after the first quarter.

The tide shifted in the second quarter as Simpson found her footing. She converted two shots in the paint and knocked down a three-pointer as Longwood cut its deficit to just three at the half.

"It was just knowing that this could be our last game and then pushing through that," Simpson said. "We had to play our heart out and just leave it all on the floor."

In the third quarter neither team was able to grab an advantage of more than four points. The two teams exchanged leads five times in the period.

The Longwood defense was able to wear down Northport by the fourth quarter, holding the Lady Tigers to just eight points. This was Northport’s lowest scoring quarter of the game.

Harris, a freshman, helped key a 9-1 run for Longwood as she got two transition layups off Northport turnovers. The run put Longwood up nine with just over two minutes remaining.

"I was just focused, I was locked in," Harris said. "I just keyed in on what I could do to help my team change the score."

The Longwood defense impressed in its ability to hold down key players for Northport. They held Yearwood to just three points after halftime and Northport’s top scorer Sophia Bica to just seven points.

"That’s Taydra Simpson, there’s not a kid in the county who has scored much against Taydra," Longwood coach James Castiglione said. "She’s the best defender I’ve ever coached, she knew she had to play lockdown defense."

Simpson was the primary defender on Bica. Her contributions on the defensive end were just as important as the points she scored.

"Coach is amazing, and he’s really brought a lot out of me playing for him the last five years," Simpson said. "He has always believed in me and that really means a lot to me."

Longwood (21-1) advances to the Suffolk overall title game on Monday where it will play on its home court against small schools champ West Babylon (20-3). Longwood also earned a spot in the AA Regionals on March 12th at Eastport-South Manor High School.

Simpson scored 28 points and Harris had 15 as Longwood (21-1) pulled away from No. 2 Northport in the fourth quarter. Longwood advances to the state AA regionals on March 12 at Eastport High School.

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