Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson shoots against Webster-Schroeder in the first half...

Baldwin's Katelyn Simpson shoots against Webster-Schroeder in the first half of the Class AA semifinal of the NYSPHSAA girls basketball championship tournament in Troy, N.Y., on Friday. Credit: Tim Roske/Tim Roske

TROY, N.Y. — Don’t let the final record fool you. Nothing came easy for the Baldwin girls basketball team this season.  

With one of the best programs regardless of sport on Long Island in recent memory, Baldwin could often be written in marker to reach the state semifinals the majority of the last 10 seasons.

But the next few months after exiting the court following a loss in the state Class AA championship game last season became a walking — or limping — nightmare. 

The Bruins had three key players suffer significant knee injuries. But a program like Baldwin doesn’t dwell on its losses — it retools. Baldwin started three sophomores and an eighth grader aside senior guard Katelyn Simpson entering the playoffs. The results: Another trip to the state semifinals.

Baldwin’s season ended there though as the Bruins fell to Webster-Schroeder, 49-39, in the state Class AA semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College Friday evening. 

“Of all the years I’ve been here, I don’t know of any group that has overcome so many obstacles,” coach Tom Catapano said. “So for that, I’m just very proud of them.”

But even in the loss, Baldwin (22-3) showed that championship fight it displayed all season. 

Webster-Schroeder (24-1) led 27-15 at halftime but Baldwin used a 9-0 run over 3:22 to cut Webster-Schroeder’s lead to 30-26 with 3:10 left in the third quarter. 

“We fought all season,” said sophomore Toni Smith, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds. “We fought at practices, we ran a lot, argued a lot, cried a lot but honestly it was a great year. I’m proud of where we came this year. I’m not really sad about the loss, I’m sad the journey’s over.”

Baldwin cut Webster-Schroeder’s lead to 39-37 with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter following a three-pointer by Monique Echols and a charge taken by Smith. Webster-Schroeder answered with a 6-0 spurt over 1:12 to take a 45-37 lead with 1:33 left in the game and closed on a 10-2 run. Payton Dulin added 15 points for Baldwin.

“I think today you saw heart and soul,” Catapano said. “Somehow we’re down 12 at the half and next thing you know, you look up and it’s 39-37 and they just had no quit in them and as their coach, I just couldn’t be more proud.”

Baldwin has won four of the last five Long Island Class AA championships played, dating back to 2017 with no such games held in 2020 and 2021. The Bruins didn’t lose to a Long Island school this season, despite injuries to key players such as Dallysshya Moreno and Renelle Grannum.

“You saw what these kids are about tonight,” Catapano said. “No quit, all fight and we just came up a little bit short but I think this will fuel some of our underclassmen and hopefully we can get back next year.”

Simpson, the lone senior starter, will miss playing with the younger student-athletes and hopes they learned from her and their experience.

“I would always tell them, ‘Don’t take this time for granted because in a few seconds, you’ll be a senior and you’ll miss out on a lot of things if you just go through the motion,’”  said Simpson, who recovered from a dislocated knee and a torn ligament before the season. “So just the life lessons you learn from this sport is what I’ll take out of playing.”

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