Darcie Smith has some big shoes to fill. Size 11, to be exact.
But she’s showing her ability to compensate for the loss of 6-4 center Alex Parlato by making sure that her own shoes, or sneakers rather, remain in constant motion.
Smith fought for position, crashed the boards, and chased down every loose ball within reach last night, finishing with 16 points and 23 rebounds in Wantagh’s 54-46 win over Mepham in the final of the Wantagh Sports Booster Club Invitational Thursday night.
“I feel like rebounding helps win games more than scoring,” said Smith, who grabbed 20 rebounds in Wantagh’s season opener on Tuesday. “You get another 30 seconds to create more opportunities for the team.”
Smith did so a dozen times, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds, including three on one possession in the first quarter. It may be difficult to fully fill the void left by Parlato, who guided the Warriors to the county championship game last season before heading to Fordham. But the 5-10 Smith is proving to be a relentless interior presence.
“Darcie is an animal on the court,” point guard Nikki Sliwak said. “She’s definitely the heart of our defense.”
And Sliwak was the heart of the offense in the third, pushing the pace to erase a seven-point deficit and spark a 13-0 run. Smith blocked a jumper and raced down court to finish a layup off a feed from Sliwak for a 34-32 lead midway through the third. Sliwak followed with a drive down the lane to increase the lead to four.
“In the first half we were moving kind of slow and I thought we needed to pick it up and it totally worked,” said Sliwak, who scored all eight of her points in the second half and added five assists.
Emily Fuchs had 13 points, including a putback with 3:04 remaining in the third that capped the run and gave Wantagh a 40-32 lead. Caitlin Albanese had nine points and Cheyenne Johnson added eight.
“I think we are a more dynamic team this season,” Fuchs said, “using every player as an asset.”
Taylor O’Brien had 16 points for Mepham (1-1). A three by Maryann Bagonis (14 points) cut Wantagh’s lead to 50-45 with 3:56 remaining. But another putback by Smith sealed the win for Wantagh (2-0).
“Darcie’s motor is never ending,” Wantagh coach Stan Bujacich said. “She’s not a big center. But she plays big.”
And fills big shoes.