When Lisette Cordero moved back to West Babylon after her family moved to Ecuador for a few years, she knew one of the first people she wanted to seek out was the basketball coach. Good for West Babylon that she did.
Cordero started playing basketball when she was in Ecuador and wanted to continue when her family moved back to Long Island before the start of this school year. She met West Babylon coach Ron Langella in September.
"The first thing I did was I went to coach," Cordero said. "And he presented me to the team."
Cordero quickly became an integral part of a championship season for West Babylon, and saved one of her best performances for the most important game of the year. The senior had 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench as West Babylon defeated Plainedge, 52-34, in the girls basketball Long Island Class A championship/Southeast Regional final at Eastport-South Manor Saturday afternoon.
"I’m not sure we win today if Lisette’s not on the floor," Langella said … "She was probably the MVP of our team today which says a lot with the other kids we have on the court."
West Babylon (21-4) advances to play Averill Park in the state Class A semifinals at 11:45 a.m. on Friday at Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College. It’s West Babylon’s first trip to the state semifinals in program history. Plainedge finishes 17-7.
Cordero admitted she was nervous at first about moving back to Long Island and seeing how her skillset would translate. But she gained confidence and friendships throughout the season, culminating in a strong championship performance.
"I felt great," Cordero said. "I thought it was going to be really hard but then I started to believe in myself and trust what I know and started to play."
West Babylon led 20-19 at halftime and it remained a one-possession game the majority of the third quarter before Lacey Downey hit a three-pointer as time expired in the period to give West Babylon a 32-27 lead entering the fourth.
"Right there I wasn’t thinking," Downey said. "I knew [the quarter] was about to end, that we needed a good shot to get us up a little more and that really picked up our spirits."
The Eagles went on a 15-0 run spanning four minutes to take a 43-27 advantage with 3:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Downey scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half and finished with six steals. West Babylon outscored Plainedge 20-7 in the fourth quarter.
"Lacey knows when it’s her time," Langella said. "She’s been in big moments on every field she’s played on and it’s not a surprise that she takes it over when she does."
Avery Vergano added 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals, including nine points in the fourth quarter, and Jade Dockery had six points, four rebounds and three steals in the win.
"We came in knowing we were going to win," Downey said. "You have to have that mindset going in and with that, we had to outplay them, out tough them and we knew if we played harder than them and wanted it more, we would win. And that’s what we did."
Langella said ever since about midway through the season, he challenged the girls to envision a coach bus in the back of the school parking lot. Why a coach bus and not a regular school bus? Because that’s what the team would take it if traveled to Troy for the state semifinals.
"They envisioned it, they saw it and they achieved it," Langella said. "They got really into the mindset of visualizing things and seeing it and we went with the bus theme and it worked. They saw it, they believed in it and now they are amazed they are actually going to be going on the bus upstate."
"The bus going up there is going to be something special," Downey said. "We want to win but just going up there with my team and getting the hotels and the reservations, it’s going to be special."