The casual fan wouldn’t be able to tell that Lilah Grubman played competitive basketball for the first time less than four years ago.
Grubman, a freshman wing on the Syosset girls basketball team, plays almost methodically with an abundance of control and slashes to the basket with nearly unmatched athleticism.
She scored 14 points and had a key blocked shot with 59 seconds left as second-seeded Syosset beat No. 3 Freeport, 60-49, in a Nassau Class AA semifinal at Farmingdale State on Monday night.
Syosset will play top-seeded Baldwin in the Nassau Class AA championship game at 1 p.m. Sunday at Farmingdale State.
Grubman’s block on a baseline drive kept Syosset’s lead at 56-47. “She impacts the game in just about every facet,” Braves coach Michael Ferreira said. “You see the blocks, but what’s important to us are the deflections, the diving for loose balls and even more. She’s unselfish and a great shooter.”
Freeport (16-5) trailed 19-4 after a sloppy first quarter but closed to 27-22 by halftime behind Deavion Peterson (17 points).
Tiona Parker’s layup got the Red Devils within 28-27 early in the third quarter, but Syosset (20-1) answered with a pivotal 8-0 run.
“They put a lot of pressure on the ball,” Grubman said of how Freeport mounted its comeback. “I think they were more focused on defense, and they really looked to get rebounds.”
Four straight points from Taylor Abraham in the fourth quarter pulled the Red Devils within 54-47 with 3:19 remaining, but the Braves chewed the clock and went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, highlighted by Kendall Halpern’s four straight makes.
“We really just had to regroup at halftime and play our pace and not play the type of game they wanted to play,” said Syosset’s Rachel Mahler (21 points).
She said their full-court press was weak in the first half, which allowed Freeport to close the gap. Grubman usually spearheads that press, and it was her increased effort later in the game that helped Syosset recover.
“Her athleticism is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Mahler said. “She has a bright future, I think, on this team.”
Up next is Baldwin, the two-time defending state Class AA champion and the defending state Federation Class AA champion. Said Mahler: “We’ve always [been eliminated] before we’ve been able to play Baldwin, so I’m excited for this game.”