Sometimes all it takes is a little patience and a ball fake.
With West Babylon settling in to a rampant trap-and-press defense, the Wantagh girls basketball team had to take a step back. Earlier in the game, crosscourt passes were “our Kryptonite,” according to senior guard Caitlin Albanese.
The Warriors had a new plan in the second half, and the results were super.
Julia Wilkinson scored nine of her 12 points in the second half as Wantagh defeated West Babylon, 49-30, in North Babylon’s Hoops 2 Remember tournament at Robert Moses Middle School. Morgan Flaherty had 12 points and five rebounds, and Albanese had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“They’re long and athletic, so it was really hard to break, at times,” Wilkinson said. “I think we just needed that extra second and a ball fake to get past their zone, and I think that’s eventually how we got our offense going.”
Wilkinson played like she was made of steel, fighting through ankle and knee injuries incurred during the contest. She scored on three straight Wantagh possessions in the third quarter, giving the Warriors a 32-23 lead.
West Babylon (5-2) opened the quarter on a blistering 5-0 run in the first minute, cutting its deficit to 24-19. Emily Heller converted a three-point play to start the quarter before Delilah Doyle capitalized on a turnover while Wantagh (4-3) attempted to bring the ball up court on the ensuing inbound.
“[Their defense] hurt us a lot in the beginning, but then we finally figured it out,” Albanese said.
Albanese battled foul trouble throughout, leaving much of the scoring to be picked up. Wilkinson and Flaherty took the lead, while several others chipped in. Irene Huguet helped facilitate with four assists.
West Babylon’s pressure kept the team within striking distance until midway through the fourth quarter. After Lacey Downey (three points) split a pair of free throws that cut the Eagles’ deficit to 38-28, Wantagh flew up, up and away with an 11-0 run.
“I think we got better as the game progressed,” Wilkinson said. “We kind of read their defense and tried to improve. I think the greatest thing we need to work on is just breaking that 1-3-1 zone and really working on our press breaks.”
With no clear favorite for the Nassau Class A title, Wantagh is laser-focused on winning.
“We want it to be us,” she said. “Why not us?”