GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Carley Staples (15) and Nicole Busso rejoiced after Southold defeated Friends Academy, winning the Long Island Class C championship.
SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS C SEMIFINAL | FIRST SETTLERS 32, QUAKERS 26, OT
It wasn’t exactly a work of art, but to the Southold girls basketball team, it must have seemed like a masterpiece.
Not many points would have been awarded for artistry in the Southeast Region Class C semifinal. Then again, not many actual points were scored, either.
But what mattered most to Southold was that, through 32 minutes of regulation time and then an additional four minutes of overtime, it finished with more points than Friends Academy. When the final buzzer sounded, ending Southold’s 32-26 victory at Farmingdale State College on Wednesday, the First Settlers’ reserve players rushed onto the middle of the 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.
“That was probably the most intense game we played all year,” Southold guard Lauren Ficurilli said. “It was the most indescribable, unbelievable feeling. Just the fact that we won, it says something, and it’s something to be proud of.”
The triumph brought Southold (16-6) its first Long Island championship since the 1990s, said Hennes. “It’s been a while,” she said. It also moved the First Settlers to within one win of advancing to the New York State final four in Troy. They could do that Saturday when they will play a team from Section I or Section IX in the regional final on the same court in Farmingdale.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Lauren Ficurilli, shooting over Jalisa Clark of Friends Academy, led Southold with 10 points.
Southold first had to get past the Nassau County champion, Friends Academy (6-13). It was a plodding affair for a good deal of the way. The teams proved a good match for each other. They both suffered from the same problems: many of their shots weren’t falling and turnovers were frequent.
But Southold can be credited for grinding out the win. The First Settlers 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.
Hennes said she told her players before overtime started, “You have four minutes to walk away here and feel the best feeling you could feel in your entire life.”
Southold never led until a Ficurilli basket early in the fourth quarter made it 21-19.
Campbell sank a pressure-packed free throw, the front end of a one and one with 5.7 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, to tie the score at 24-24. After a timeout, Friends Academy lost the ball when an inbounds pass by Jalisa Clark bounced off Kristina Kim’s leg with 3.2 seconds left.
That gave Southold a chance to win it in regulation time. Ficurilli passed to Melissa Rogers, who tossed up an air ball that Kim caught as the fourth quarter ended.
At times the game was downright ugly. Perhaps it was a case of big-game jitters.
“Wins aren’t pretty all the time,” said Hennes.
Neither side was really able to capitalize on the other team’s miscues. The turnovers basically evened out, with 25 by Friends Academy and 26 by Southold. The Quakers shot a woeful 21.9 percent from the floor; Southold wasn’t much better at 29.7 percent.
The Quakers couldn’t have felt good about their 8-of-23 shooting from the free-throw line, either.
Points were hard to come by. By the time Southold committed its 11th turnover, Friends Academy held an 11-4 lead.
But Southold snapped out of its early malaise, using a 7-0 run to draw even at 11-11 with 2:26 left in the first half.
The scoreboard told the story at halftime: 13-11 in Friends Academy’s favor.
“In a game like this, every shot counts,” said Southold forward Nicole Busso.
Lindsay O’Sullivan, an eighth-grader, scored 5 points during an 8-0 Friends Academy run that made it 19-11 late in the third quarter.
But then Southold concluded the third quarter on an 8-0 spurt of its own, tying it at 19-19. It was a new game.
“We never lost faith,” Busso said. Busso said Hennes, in a pregame speech, “really proved to us why we had to win this game, and that was for ourselves, to prove to Southold who we are.”
The offensive statistics were modest. Ficurilli led all scorers with 10 points and Campbell netted all 9 of her points after halftime. Busso had a tremendous game under the boards with 14 rebounds.
Rogers, playing with her ailing left wrist bandaged, was clearly not her usual self, with only 1 point. She did, however, grab 8 rebounds, make 3 steals and block 2 shots.
For Friends Academy, O’Sullivan had 9 points, Kim 8, and Rose Mangiorotti collected 14 rebounds.
After the game, the First Settlers were a happy group. At one point, just about all of the players had their cell phones out, undoubtedly texting friends and family members, relaying the news that their season had been extended.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated a foul shot in the last five seconds, going into overtime, and then pulling it out in overtime,” Campbell said. “This is like all we dreamed of — and more.”