Game stories can't contain all of the finer details or all of what was said after the game. Here is some additional insight from Tuesday's Nassau Class AA semifinals held at Oyster Bay.
Starting off with the first semifinal between No. 1 Baldwin and No. 4 Uniondale. This matchup was compelling because of Uniondale size advantage on the inside and talented young guards up against Baldwin’s veteran guards.
The game lived up to the expected close matchup which was a credit to both squads, although some additional factors played into it early on. Uniondale was in foul trouble early as Aliyah McDonald and Sakara Hester-Torres each picked up three fouls in the first quarter and were forced to sit the entire second. In their absence Uniondale’s offense was bending and nearly broken, Baldwin just couldn’t fully capitalize on their chance early on. There were also issues with the game and shot clock in the first half which stopped the game at least half a dozen times and hurt Uniondale more so than Baldwin.
Regardless, Baldwin led 20-16 at halftime behind 10 points from Alex Hampton. Uniondale clawed back in the third and even had a 28-26 lead but Baldwin regained the advantage to go up 31-28 after three.
Uniondale tied the score at 35 with 2:57 to go and later fouled Amber Harrison on a three-pointer. Harrison made 1-of-3 free throws and Baldwin held on to win 36-35. Uniondale missed a free throw and two put back chances and then Hester-Torres had a chance for a buzzer beater but the shot went wide.
Baldwin coach Tom Catapano:
On the game:
It could be a lot worse we could have lost that game. They took my advice, I tell them we only got to win by one in the playoffs, they took it literally tonight.
On Amber Harrison’s free throws:
I like the situation. Amber’s a senior she’s been on varsity since 9th grade and luckily for us she made one out of three which was enough for us to win.
On the final play:
You want to pressure the basketball especially with their guards because you don’t want them to setup plays. We had our two bigs kids back protecting the basket for anything long. We wanted to double up on Sakara, if she wasn’t taking the ball out. It was a great finish, it was a great game.
On not taking advantage of Uniondale’s foul trouble early on:
I credit Uniondale, their bench did a great job. They held them in that game with their two best players out. We really couldn’t take advantage of it. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and tonight we found a way.
On what he’ll say to the team after the game:
We know we didn’t play well. This is probably the worst game we’ve had all year but we found a way to win. We got to bounce back and play better in the finals.
On Alex Hampton:
She’s a facilitator, that’s what she still does first. Rather than shoot, she’ll took to facilitate the ball. Unfortunately tonight we didn’t make a lot of outside shots in that zone they ran against us.
On the high number of missed three-pointers:
We shoot the ball every single day for a long period of time. I always say we’re a very good defensive team and we’re an average offensive team. We just got to continue to work hard.
Baldwin shooting guard Amber Harrison:
On the final play:
We had to run back and play straight man-to-man defense and do whatever we could to make sure they don’t score no matter what.
On going back to the finals for the third straight year:
It’s really a blessing. For us to go back to the county championship for a third time is amazing. Words can’t describe how excited I am.
Baldwin point guard Alex Hampton:
On winning the game:
It’s a great feeling because we all know that we’ve worked so hard to get to where we are now and even in the tough times we stuck together and kept our heads.
On the final play:
What’s going through my head was, I really need to lock up on defense and get it back for my team. We all had to work together at that point. It’s not going to be on one person. (...) I definitely didn’t want to foul, bail them out and get them on the free throw line. Although I did miss the tip and she got the drive, luckily we got the rebound and was able to hold it out.
She’s a great player offensively and defensively and I knew that it was going to be hard work for me to get to where I want with the ball.
On going back to the finals:
The feeling is great. All the time and effort we put in together. We’re like a family. I just know that nobody works as hard as we do in the off-season, year-round basically and I’m just really happy with where we’ve gotten.
Uniondale coach Danielle Nicol:
On the final play:
We were trying to look for a little baseline screen-and-roll with Hyatt and Hester Torres. I told Sakara I said, if you get the lane to the basket, go to the basket.
On deciding not to call a timeout during the final play:
No I believe in flow. I don’t believe in stilted, stilted, stilted because I think when you get down the court we’re in transition they might miss a defensive assignment as opposed to calling it at half-court now they’re definitely picked up again.
Moving on to the second semifinal between No. 2 Massapequa and No. 3 MacArthur. The teams traded baskets early on but Massapequa took a 12-10 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
Morgan Roessler had all of her 14 points in the first half as Massapequa took a 31-19 lead into halftime. Ten players in all scored for Massapequa, including Lauren Van Buren who added 10 points, and the Chiefs showed why depth has been their biggest strength all season.
Courtney Noakes kept MacArthur in the game in the second half, totaling 21 points in all, but it was not enough as Massapequa continued to increase its lead, winning 56-42.
The wire-to-wire top two teams in Nassau Class AA, Baldwin and Massapequa, will meet in the finals at 2 p.m. Saturday at LIU Post.
Massapequa shooting guard Morgan Roessler:
On matching up with Baldwin:
We know what we have to come out to because we’ve been watching their tapes on MSG Varsity. We know if we keep our defense tight especially on Alex Hampton and Amber (Harrison) then we can pull the game out.
On if keeping focused in a 10 or 11-point game later on was difficult:
Not really because coming out even if we let up our intensity a little bit at the end and they picked up their intensity it could have been anyone’s game.
Massapequa coach Shari Roessler:
On Courtney Noakes:
Second half she had most of their points. We knew from their history her and Cozza core most of their points. She moves well, she’s good athlete she moves her way to the basket. She had (21) that’s great.
On Lauren Van Buren:
She’s a playoff player. She rises to the challenge of playoffs.