They call it the Flaherty Floater.
Junior Morgan Flaherty had her signature move working, and the Wantagh girls basketball team desperately needed it. After a back-and-forth defensive clinic by both teams, it was Wantagh that was floating on Cloud Nine.
Flaherty had 14 points, including the winning floater with 1:54 left in the contest, as No. 3 Wantagh scored the final 11 points and earned a 42-35 win over No. 7 Manhasset in a Nassau Class A semifinal at Farmingdale State on Thursday night.
Wantagh, seeking its first county title since the 2005-06 season, will play No. 4 Sewanhaka at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Farmingdale State for the title.
Tied at 35, Flaherty’s jumping floater from the right elbow gave Wantagh a 37-35 lead.
“That’s like my sweet spot,” said Flaherty, a 5-11 junior. “Getting into those spots, that’s what I look to do.”
On a larger court against Manhasset’s disciplined 1-3-1 zone, Flaherty said she had to keep moving to find the open gaps. When she found them, the guards along the perimeter made sure to keep feeding her.
She made consecutive baskets at the end of the first half — again, from the elbows — to put Wantagh ahead 17-16 heading into the break. Her jumper midway through the third quarter tied the score at 23, and her putback 13 seconds into the fourth period trimmed Manhasset’s lead to 29-28.
“They were clutch,” said senior Caitlin Albanese, the last remaining player from Wantagh’s last championship appearance in 2014-15. “We needed those, and they came in the right moment. That’s all that counts.”
Manhasset (17-5), fresh off a win over No. 2 Plainedge in the quarterfinals, took a 29-25 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter on Rebecca Ritterband’s three-pointer. Maria Themelis (12 points) put Manhasset up 35-31 on a lefty layup with 3:41 left to play, but that was the Indians’ last basket.
“It’s two good defensive teams,” Wantagh coach Stan Bujacich said about the struggle to score. “They’re a hard-nosed team. They’re athletic. They’re well coached.”
Albanese (10 points) said Wantagh realized early that its shots from deep weren’t falling. The Warriors (17-5) opted to look inside instead, and Flaherty was ready for the chance.
“Our shots weren’t falling, so we had to change it up,” Flaherty said. “Looking it into the middle helped. We had to move the ball as fast as we could.”
And Flaherty, who was feeling the floater, capitalized.
“She has a knack for that floater,” Bujacich said. “We call it the Flaherty Floater.”