Tatiana Stevens was in the right place at the right time.
Bryanna Picton delivered an open shot from the left wing that bounced long and Stevens was there for the offensive board. With no hesitation, she went up strong and banked it in from the right side, putting the top-seeded Longwood girls basketball team ahead by two points with 13 seconds remaining in the Suffolk Class AA championship Friday night.
Northport’s last look at the basket was off target as time expired and the Longwood players stormed the middle of the court at Whitman High School to celebrate its 45-43 win, the program’s first county championship since 1999-2000 when it was Class A.
“We got a great look for the three, and Tatiana Stevens has been our best offensive rebounder all season,” Lions coach James Castiglione said. “She had some hard luck in the beginning — a bunch of them didn’t go down — but she made that one.”
Longwood (21-2) led 34-20 midway through the third quarter and 38-25 at the end of the period, but Northport surged in the beginning of the fourth. Danielle Pavinelli, Kelly McLaughlin, Kerry Dennin and Hannah Stockman battled foul trouble throughout, but with the quartet on the court together, the second-seeded Tigers came back.
They started the quarter on a 9-0 run, cutting the lead to 38-34. Nyia Longford (19 points) ended that surge with a long jumper. Stevens’ tough lay-in put the Lions ahead 42-35 with 2:25 remaining, but Northport had another run.
Stockman hit a three-pointer and a layup for the Tigers to cut the deficit to 42-40. Longwood’s lead was three after Longford split a pair of free throws.
That’s when Shea Cronin got an open look for Northport (21-3), and she drained a three-pointer from the right corner to tie it at 43 with 31.8 seconds to play. Stevens’ game-winner came after a Lions timeout.
“I’m just so glad I got that rebound and that I put it back up,” Stevens said.
Taydra Simpson and Janelle Brown each scored eight points for Longwood, though Brown fouled out with 4:14 remaining, putting Picton in position to take that open look from the left wing.
The Lions will play in the Suffolk championship on Wednesday at Whitman in its final tuneup before the Long Island Class AA championship on March 9 at Farmingdale State.
“I want a Long Island championship,” Longford said of her motivation on Friday. “That’s it.”