Lady Bruins seek big finish


The Nassau Class AA girls’ basketball playoffs are still a week away, but three-time defending county champion Baldwin will get an early taste of postseason play next Monday night when MacArthur visits for the regular-season finale.

The outcome will determine the Conference AA-II title and playoff seeding. The Lady Generals, who last month snapped the Lady Bruins’ 43-game winning streak against Nassau-based opponents, would capture the crown outright with a victory. Baldwin would earn a share of the top spot and likely a higher playoff seed if it can take the rematch.

“The girls are probably sick of hearing me talk about the rematch with MacArthur,” coach Tom Catapano said after the Lady Bruins improved to 9-1 in conference play and 11-3 overall with a win over Valley Stream Central last Friday evening. “The reality is, if we lose we’re looking at the five or six seed,” he added. “If we win, we could be second behind Massapequa.”

Catapano is stressing a strong start against MacArthur, which built a 17-point halftime cushion in the first meeting and held on for a 59-55 win before a large home crowd. Jenna Cozza poured in 24 points to lead the way. “It takes time to become battle-tested,” Catapano said. “We’ve played some really tough teams in non-league and scrimmages. We just weren’t ready to go at MacArthur. We picked up our energy and defense in the second half, but it was a little too late.”

Since the setback, Baldwin has feasted on four opponents in the opening quarter by a combined 78-18. It outscored Valley Stream Central by 13 in the first eight minutes on the way to an easy 65-30 win. Junior Tyra Harrison led the offense with 17 points, while senior Chelsea May added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore Jade Aponte chipped in 10 points.

“We can’t afford to not be ready for MacArthur to come out flying,” Catapano explained. “We have to play hard and passionate right from the start.”

In order to make a deep playoff run and push for a fourth straight Nassau Class AA championship, Catapano said the Lady Bruins need to defend better and improve their conditioning. And while the offense has turned it up a notch, he said there is still room for improvement. “We’re shooting better than we were earlier in the season,” he said. “Our guards are attacking the basket, and our forwards are converting in the paint.”

Baldwin brought back just one starter from last year’s team that beat Massapequa for the county title. Junior Mariah Butler is often the offensive catalyst, although the Lady Bruins rely on a balanced attack. Harrison’s 18-point performance in the first MacArthur game is the high-water mark so far. “We haven’t had anyone score 20 in a game,” Catapano noted. “But what’s nice about this group is we’ve got four or five players capable of scoring in double figures.”