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Sakara Hester-Torres' 15 points lead Uniondale past Farmingdale, 52-32

Uniondale guard Sakara Hester-Torres handles the ball during

Uniondale guard Sakara Hester-Torres handles the ball during an offensive possession in a game against Farmingdale. (Jan. 11, 2014) Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

The drive-and-kick, in short time, has become Uniondale's bread-and-butter. The consistency of those plays, absent from the team for so long, has allowed coach Danielle Nicol to "relax" this season.

Wait. Come again.

"Well, maybe not," the boisterous coach admitted, "but it's as close to relaxed as I can be."

The semi-serenity has been brought to the sideline, in part, by Sakara Hester-Torres. Her quick crossover and reverse pivot moves on frequent trips into the paint has helped free the perimeter for Uniondale's shooters.

There was more of that Saturday. Hester-Torres had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Knights topped Farmingdale, 52-32, in Conference AA-I girls basketball.

"When I was 5, I'd practice with my older brother Justin, and he taught me how to dribble," Hester-Torres said. "I've been playing guard most of my life."

That's a luxury the Knights hadn't enjoyed in more than a year. Hester-Torres, a junior, transferred to Curtis (Staten Island) after her freshman year, leaving Uniondale without a true point guard. But her decision to return last fall has been a windfall.

"It's the first time in probably 15 years we've had the combination of someone who can drive along with reliable shooters," Nicol said. "It's a big help because our team is so young."

The Knights have one senior, two seventh-graders and eight underclassmen.

But thus far, the shooters have benefited greatly from passes off penetration, in particular Ashley Jara, who has become one of Nassau's better sharpshooters. She scored 12 points on four threes. Hester-Torres twice found Jara open on the wing for three-pointers in the opening 1:58, and Uniondale never trailed.

Bianca Nwatu had nine points and 11 rebounds, and seventh-grader Diamonae McLean eight points and six rebounds for the Knights (3-2).

"Last year, we only had two ballhandlers and now we have three girls who can handle, pass and shoot from the outside," Jara said, referring to Hester-Torres, McLean and herself. Jara, a natural shooting guard, ran the point last season, but "having Sakara back is big for us."

And it was too much for Farmingdale (1-4), which faced Uniondale for the first time since last year's Nassau Class AA semifinals. The Dalers drew no closer than 32-21 in the second half, after Amanda Hausmann's layup in the third quarter. Hester-Torres answered immediately, drilling a three in transition with 5:01 left in the period. Lauren Hill scored 11 points for Farmingdale.

"If a team is making a run," Hester-Torres said, "as a leader and a point guard, you have to make something happen."

Uniondale graduated several key players last year and is, in some ways, enduring a rebuilding phase. But the potential of this offense is enough to have the team optimistic . . . and its coach calmed.

Well, almost.

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