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Val Oyakhilome finds her game in Lindenhurst win

Lindenhurst's Valerie Oyakhilome looks to shoot during a

Lindenhurst's Valerie Oyakhilome looks to shoot during a game against Garden City. (Dec. 15, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Val Oyakhilome didn't want a repeat of Friday night.

After scoring 10 points in a loss to Whitman, the Lindenhurst senior was in line for a similar performance with two points in the first half Saturday after she sat the final 4:05 with two fouls.

But Oyakhilome became a dominant player in the second half, scoring 21 of her 23 points to go with 11 rebounds in a 51-27 girls basketball win over Garden City in the St. Anthony's Winter Classic.

"Friday was a wake-up call," said Oyakhilome, who is averaging 24.3 points. "I wanted to get out of that trance. I realized I have to be more aggressive than normal."

Oyakhilome has been slowed by a right knee sprain suffered in September that kept her off the court for one month. She's wearing a brace on the knee.

"I am not explosive or as fast as I was at the end of the summer," she said. "My knee is getting better and stronger every game. It's holding me back a little bit, but my teammates have been picking it up."

Lindenhurst (4-2) opened the third quarter with a 16-4 run after trailing 16-14 at the half. Ariana Irizarry (eight points) hit a free throw and a jumper to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 19-16. After Garden City (4-2) scored to make it 19-18, Nicole Intrieri (eight points) hit consecutive three-pointers to expand Lindenhurst's lead to 25-18.

"We didn't shoot well in the first half," Intrieri said. "Val's a good player. Around her we have to step up. We need to make the shots around her to help us win. We have a lot of seniors starting but we're not as experienced as last year. We didn't play much."

Oyakhilome scored eight points in the final 2:39 of the third quarter for a 37-22 lead.

"We put Val on the baseline in the second half," Lindenhurst coach Greg Flynn said. "She was focused on jumpers. We wanted to get her some baskets to get her going. When they went man, we were able to run our sets and get her going."

Oyakhilome is the lone returning starter from last season's team that won Suffolk League II. Flynn knows it will take some time for the team to get into a groove, but the second half showed the potential.

"We got beat up Friday and it was great to respond this way, especially after we struggled in the first half," Flynn said. "That's the best second half we played all season."

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