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LI's scholastic women use height advantage in win

Long Island's Tiara Goode shoots a free throw

Long Island's Tiara Goode shoots a free throw during their game vs. Adirondack at the 2010 Empire State Games. (July 22, 2010) Photo Credit: Pat Orr Photography

LEWISTON, N.Y. - It's been nearly six years - 2004 to be exact - since the Long Island scholastic women's basketball team won gold at the Empire State Games.

In fact, that was the last time a Long Island women's basketball team even competed for a medal of any kind at the Games.

They took a big step toward ending that dubious streak Thursday.

Bridgit Ryan of Harborfields had 15 points and eight rebounds as Long Island overpowered Adirondack, 56-48, at Niagara University's Gallagher center.

Long Island's superior size and depth played a big role in the win. With three players 5-11 or taller, it was easy pickings in the paint at times.

"They weren't as big as other teams here," Ryan said. "I got the ball in some space and was able to put some moves on."

Long Island coach Bruce Haller (Commack) agreed with Ryan.

"We have a couple of real strong kids inside today," Haller said. "We had Bridgit and Marlaina Sherman from Miller Place on the boards."

Sherman complemented Ryan inside with six points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

He also lauded the hustle of his forwards and wing players, who made it tough on the smaller Adirondack squad on both sides of the ball.

"Our forwards understand if you want to win this game, you have to be able to play in transition and control the boards," Haller said. "Tiara Goode, Alexia O'Connor [Harborfields] and Colleen Walker [Commack] all hit the boards."

Goode and Adrianna Grant, both from Brentwood, each had seven points, while Whitman's Kelly Bilodeau also had seven points.

The versatility of the team also stood out. Early on Long Island couldn't find the basket from long range, so it took the next step of getting the ball inside. Once Ryan found her rhythm in the paint, it opened the door for the shooters.

"Shooting from the outside wasn't working early," Ryan said. "But they got it inside and that worked. By the end of the game we were hitting our outside shots."

As for getting a win on the first day, it couldn't have come at a better time for Long Island, which faces a tough Hudson Valley team at 2 p.m. Friday.

"We haven't won the first game here in almost seven years," assistant coach Tina Riggio (Brentwood) said. "This was a big step."

Haller said the biggest difference this year was they managed to convince some of Long Island's top players to participate.

"It's tough to get kids on this team, because they are all on other AAU teams," Haller said. "Coach [Riggio] and I worked hard coordinating with other high school coaches and AAU coaches, because this is a special experience for the kids."

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