Even though Baldwin captured its first-ever girls’ basketball state title last winter, memories of back-to-back losses to Commack in the 2015 and 2016 Long Island Class AA championship games remained fresh in the minds of standouts Aziah Hudson and Jenna Annecchiarico.
On March 8, the senior guards made sure a third matchup with the Lady Cougars was a charm.
Hudson exploded for 18 of her game-high 27 points in a dominant first quarter, and Annecchiarico scored 8 of her 13 late in the third to spark a 15-point run, leading Baldwin to its second straight Long Island crown, 78-48, before a crowd of more than 2,000 at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.
Senior Donnetta Johnson added 16 points and eight rebounds, junior Kaia Harrison scored 14, and senior Destiny Samuel had 9 points and 10 boards for the Lady Bruins (22-1), who advanced to the state semifinals, where they will meet Orchard Park or Bishop Kearney on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College at 10:45 a.m. The state title game will be Sunday at 10 a.m.
Senior Casey Hearns paced Commack (22-3) with 15 points, all from behind the arc.
“Aziah added to her legacy tonight,” Baldwin head coach Tom Catapano said of Hudson, who had four breakaway layups off turnovers and swished a trey in the opening quarter to help build a 31-9 lead. “She’s the program’s all-time leading scorer for a reason, and has been a big part of five county championship teams. She’s incredible in transition, and helped us get off to a picture-perfect start.”
Hudson scored 9 straight points as Baldwin built a 17-2 advantage, and had 26 points at halftime, when the score was 45-21. She also led the trapping defense along with Annecchiarico and Harrison. Each of the three had five steals.
“We took this one personally,” Annecchiarico said. “Commack has a great team, and we wanted a chance to avenge those two losses. We were really motivated and prepared.”
The Lady Cougars trailed by as many as 30 in the first half, but closed the second quarter on an 8-2 run and ripped off a dozen straight early in the third after Johnson’s basket to start the second half.
“Donnetta’s a matchup nightmare,” Catapano said of Johnson, a first-year contributor. “She moves so well, crashes the boards and uses both hands. She’s fit right in.”
With the margin trimmed to 47-33, Catapano called timeout in an attempt to regain momentum. It worked, as the Lady Bruins responded with five baskets and three free throws to take an insurmountable 64-37 lead into the fourth.
“I think we clicked on all cylinders,” Catapano said. “The girls put in so much hard work this week. They literally watched 10 Commack games on film, and the preparation showed. They were hungry, and came out like there was no tomorrow. We knew Commack would eventually make a push, but we settled down pretty quick, and Jenna hit some threes.”
With a firm grip on the Long Island championship plaque, Hudson, who wears No. 2, couldn’t help but think about a possible second state crown. “We’re one big family, and everybody knows their role,” she said. “We’re excited to go back upstate, and hopefully we’ll get it done.”