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Top seed Northport advances to Suffolk Class AA girls basketball final

Northport's Sophia Yearwood puts up a three pointer

Northport's Sophia Yearwood puts up a three pointer over Ward Melville's Sarah Bucher during the Suffolk girls basketball Class AA semifinal on Saturday Feb 22 , 2020 at Centereach High School. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Danielle Pavinelli got a rare experience on Saturday.

Northport’s talented, do-everything, senior point guard fouled out of the Suffolk Class AA semifinals against No. 4 Ward Melville with 2:04 left on the clock and her team ahead by 19 points.

“What’s so special about this year is that we have such a big bench,” Pavinelli said. “Anyone can step up for us whether it’s on offense or defense. It’s so hard to stop any one person.”

Ward Melville found out what every other Long Island team that has played the Tigers now knows — Northport is talented, deep and one heck of a tough out.

Sophomore Sophia Yearwood had a team-high 15 points and five rebounds, and Pavinelli added 13 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds as top-seeded Northport advanced to the AA finals after a 69-53 win at Centereach High School.

Northport (20-2) meets No. 2 Longwood in a rematch of last season’s AA championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph’s (Patchogue). (Longwood won a year ago, 45-43.) The Tigers' only two losses this season came against teams not from Long Island.

“We move the ball very well,” senior guard Kelly McLaughlin said. “There’s not one person on the team that’s selfish, and not one player who puts themselves above the others. We have a whole team of girls that play and work hard for each other.”

The proof is in the statistics. The Tigers were balanced as Sophia Bica had 14 points, McLaughlin added 12 points, Kerry Dennin had seven points, nine rebounds and three assists, and Tess Maline came off the bench and scored all eight of her points during a critical second quarter. Northport used a 12-0 run in the period to break things open and take a 32-19 halftime lead.

Ward Melville (17-5) fell behind by as much as 49-28 late in the third quarter, and showed their resolve and got within 14 points on a few occasions but could get no closer. Freshman Julia Greek and senior Jamie Agostino each had 14 points, and senior Sarah Bucher added 11 points for the Patriots.

So how would Northport coach Rich Castellano scout his team if he were an opposing coach?

“I don’t know. That’s a darn good question,” said Castellano, with a wry smile. “We have so many weapons.”

And a great view from the bench.

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