Wednesday night’s non-league girls basketball game between Uniondale and Greenport/Southold wasn’t a pressing engagement … until the Knights made it one.
Mired in a back-and-forth six-point game at halftime, Uniondale came out of the locker room with a more aggressive plan. The Knights used a blistering third-quarter run backed by a stifling press to earn a 54-32 win over the Porters in the semifinals of Oyster Bay’s 14th annual holiday tournament.
Freshman Tyasia Williams (17 points) spearheaded the 24-6 third quarter advantage for Uniondale (4-0), who will play Oyster Bay on Friday at 7 p.m. in the tournament’s final. Greenport/Southold and Roosevelt play in the consolation game at 5 p.m.
“We started communicating more on defense because in the first half, we weren’t really talking,” Williams said. “My shot wasn’t falling the whole game, so I just decided to attack the basket.”
Kapri Bradshaw and Abimbola Babatunde each chipped in 11 points for the well-balanced Knights. Once head coach Nolan Dunkley asked his group to move their feet rather than jump passing lanes on defense, the points came easier.
“We started talking and communicating more,” Dunkley said. “We started dropping down to close the gaps, and that makes the big difference. If you just simply slide your feet instead of gambling for the steal, the press is going to work in our favor.”
The Porters held tough in the first half behind freshman guard Adrine Demirciyan, a lefty shooter who had 14 points. She found open space along the perimeter and knocked down a trio of three-pointers, including one from each corner.
But once Uniondale turned up the pressure, the Knights took off. Steals turned into easy baskets, and rushed jumpers turned into transition points. It’s the strategy Dunkley hopes can carry the Knights far this season.
“Everybody’s got their cards in,” Dunkley said, referencing the landscape of Nassau Class AA. “They’ve at least got one foot in the door. We’re hopefully making the mark that we’re in the race.”
Oyster Bay advances to meet Uniondale
Led by 17 points and 10 steals from freshman guard Emma Kelly, host Oyster Bay took control in the third quarter and defeated Roosevelt in non-league, 59-47, to improve to 3-2.
“We’ll keep getting better as a team,” said Kelly, deflecting individual praise.
Elizabeth Reilly, an outside threat, added 15 points and put the Baymen ahead 51-39 on a putback off her own jumper with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter. Gaby Treble had 16 points.
Oyster Bay outscored Roosevelt, 31-21 in the second half after taking a 28-26 lead into the break. Reilly said advancing to the final shows that the Baymen are trending in the right direction.
“We lost a lot of people last year, so it’s a lot different this year,” Reilly said. “I think we’re playing a lot better as a team, and it’s great to be in the championship of our own tournament.”