An offensive-minded group such as the Mount Sinai girls basketball team can afford — to some extent — a defensive lapse or two.
But in Friday evening's Suffolk small schools championship at Whitman High School, the Mustangs found themselves treading water. A 15-point, third-quarter lead had been trimmed to just three by Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island early in the fourth quarter as Mount Sinai went cold from the field.
But the Mustangs' offense awakened and the defense followed suit en route to a 69-55 win. Mount Sinai was led by Gabby Sartori, who scored 17 of her 32 points in the second half. Brooke Cergol added 14 points.
“I know if the shot’s on, I’m going to take the shot,” said Sartori, a three-point specialist who made just one jumper. “The drive to the basket has always been on for me. I’m a driver.”
Part of the issue shooting, Sartori said, was that she felt pain in her ribs from an injury sustained during the Suffolk Class A championship against Westhampton on Wednesday. She powered through, scoring her team’s first three baskets and later facilitated a game-changing 11-0 run that put the Mustangs ahead, 65-51.
Pierson (19-4) found its rhythm in the second half, shortening a 48-33 deficit to three points after Katie Kneeland (20 points) was fouled shooting a three-pointer at the top of the arc. When she made all three free throws the Whalers trailed 54-51.
During its 18-6 run, Pierson point guard Chastin Giles (11 points) dazzled with no-look passes and other acrobatic plays.
“Their point guard was outstanding,” Mount Sinai coach Jeff Koutsantanou said. “She really did a good job distributing the basketball. They really did some good things. Our defense was not where it needed to be, but credit to them. That’s the best passing point guard I’ve seen all year.”
The Mustangs (21-3) advance to play Longwood in the Suffolk championship on Wednesday at Whitman. Mount Sinai then plays in the Long Island Class A championship on March 9 at Farmingdale State.
Pierson, the Suffolk Class C champion, will play in a state regional playoff on March 9 against the Section I/Section IX winner.