No. 4 Sports Story of 2012: Southold girls are L.I. hoops champions

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Nicole Busso, left, and Carley Staples rejoiced with their teammates after securing the team’s first Long Island championship since 2002.

Points weren’t easy to come by, but the biggest point of them all in the Southeast Region Class C girls basketball semifinal was the one the Southold First Settlers made: They had what it took to be Long Island champions.

Of course, they needed to put in some overtime to do it.

Southold won its first Long Island championship since 2002 by virtue of its 32-26 overtime triumph over Friends Academy. When the final buzzer sounded, Southold’s reserve players rushed onto the middle of Farmingdale State College’s court, piling onto their teammates and screaming.

“I think we’re just overwhelmed with joy,” said Southold guard Sydney Campbell, who was tackled and wound up at the bottom of the jubilant pile.

Southold didn’t hold a lead until a Lauren Ficurilli basket early in the fourth quarter made it 21-19. Then the First Settlers took charge in overtime. They opened overtime with baskets by Ficurilli and Campbell, who hit the game’s only 3-point shot. Then two free throws by Campbell and another foul shot by Justina Babcock extended a 10-0 run, giving Southold a 32-24 lead that must have seemed like a mountain for Friends Academy to climb with only 20.7 seconds remaining.

After the game, just about all of the Southold players had their cell phones out, undoubtedly texting friends and family members with the news that their season had been extended.

“This is like all we dreamed of — and more,” said Campbell.

That dream came to a crashing halt three days later when Southold ran into an undefeated powerhouse, John A. Coleman Catholic, in a regional final in Farmingdale. A win that would have sent Southold to the New York State final four was not in the cards. Coleman Catholic ran out to an 11-2 lead and never looked back, claiming its fifth straight regional title with a 66-25 rout.

Southold finished with a 16-7 record and a lifetime worth of memories.

“This has been absolutely amazing,” coach Katie Hennes said. “It’s been great. It’s been surreal and it’s been wonderful.”

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