For once it looked like Ifeanyi Ofili wouldn't need to be Uniondale's knight in shining armor. For two and a half quarters Saturday, the Knights defended Farmingdale with ease.
Then, late in the third quarter, the Dalers' shots finally fell. Alexis Panariello and Kyra Ochwat hit back-to-back baskets in the closing minutes of the frame, putting Farmingdale within six. It was the first, and last time, that Farmingdale would manage field goals on consecutive possessions.
As usual, in a time of distress Ofili came to the Knights' rescue. The senior point guard made two steals in the opening minute and a half of the fourth, when Uniondale scored seven straight points, and punctuated the run with an end-to-end layup to push the lead to 13. The host Knights allowed only four points in the final quarter and cruised to a 44-27 Conference AA-I victory.
"We saw our mistakes and we knew what to do," Ofili said. Before the start of the fourth quarter the Knights changed their defense around to keep Ofili, and her lightning-quick hands, on the ball.
"When she wants to, she can turn it on," said Uniondale coach Danielle Nicol. "Her defense caused the offense on that run."
Uniondale's first 12 points in the frame came the game's three leading scorers: Ofili (four of her 10), Siara Lowry (five of her 12) and Aliyah McDonald (five of her 10). Artiana Wydner scored the final four points of the game and was Uniondale's first non-starter to score.
Despite carrying the burden of the scoring, the starters were rotated out to keep them fresh. Except, of course, for Ofili who never came out and it seems, is incapable of tiring. What's her secret?
"Work hard in practice, get a good night's sleep before the game, eats healthy," she said.
The win is Uniondale's sixth in seven conference games. After playing a brutal nonconference slate - the Knights hosted St. Anthony's, St. Mary's and Long Island Lutheran - Uniondale dashed into first place with five straight wins to start conference play, before losing by one point to Massapequa on Tuesday.
"I was a little concerned," Nicol said. "Starting off undefeated [in league], I wanted to make sure we could bounce back from the loss."
Farmingdale also should bounce back. The Dalers have plenty of hope for the future as freshmen Alexis Panariello (six points) and Nadine Hadnagy (five points) were two of the team's leading scorers.
"I was really proud of my freshmen," Farmingdale coach Pete Cerrone said.
Farmingdale got a scare early in the third quarter when forward Kelly McPartland, who had a team-high six points at the time, landed hard on her back after a blocking foul. She stayed on the floor for almost 20 minutes, but was able to move. The junior, who has signed to play lacrosse at North Carolina, was taken to a hospital as precaution. An initial X-ray on her back proved inconclusive, and as of last night reports were that she was being held for observation.