Rachel Graves’ reaction said it all.
Clinging to a slim lead in Tuesday night’s Long Island Class C girls basketball championship game at Half Hollow Hills West, Graves used Brooke DeGiulio’s pick to drive left. She attacked the baseline, swooped under the net and finished from the right side, drawing the foul and making the free throw for a seven-point lead with 4:14 left in the fourth quarter.
East Rockaway (10-11) would hold on for a 48-42 win over Mercy.
East Rockaway, which last won a Long Island Class C championship in 2016, plays Millbrook (Section IX) in a Southeast Region final at SUNY New Paltz on Friday at 3 p.m. with a berth to the state semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College on the line.
“I just went for it, and it went in,” Graves said. “Honestly, I was kind of surprised, and then he called a foul. I got hyped. At that point I knew.”
East Rockaway coach Karin Leary said Graves rarely shows emotion on the court, but her outburst was warranted.
“The fact that she did that, I felt so proud of her, as a captain and a senior,” Leary said. “She wanted it. I saw it in her eyes today. For her to show emotion like that, it was a pure thing.”
Juliet McCarthy had 15 points, DeGiulio had 10 and Graves had nine. Melina Santacroce had 24 points and 17 rebounds for Mercy (15-7).
Santacroce, who coach Meaghan Smith said recently committed to New York Tech, entered play averaging 19.2 points and 16 rebounds per game.
Santacroce picked up her fourth personal foul with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter, forcing the Monarchs to lean on their role players. Point guard Karina Ellis scored four points in the quarter, while Caryn Nabrizny added a point, a free throw that tied the game at 33 with 3:32 remaining in the period. Ellis found Sarah Penny on the next possession for the go-ahead score.
East Rockaway answered, though, when Hunter Vertuccio scored on a short jumper from the right baseline. With the game tied at 35, Graves drove and found McCarthy at the top of the arc, setting up a nothing-but-net three-pointer for a 38-35 East Rockaway lead at the end of the third.
“The whole season, we’ve been saying we want it,” Graves said. “Even though we’ve had some bumps in the road, we weren’t going to give up until the last buzzer.”