Baldwin denied by Longwood

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Baldwin’s bid for a third straight Long Island Class AA girls’ basketball championship fell short last Saturday, a result of poor shooting as well as a determined and balanced opponent.

Longwood scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including a dozen from long range, to outlast the Lady Bruins, 48-43, before a crowd of more than 1,500 at Farmingdale State College. It’s the first-ever L.I. crown for the Lady Lions, who avenged a Dec. 28 loss at Baldwin’s holiday tournament.

“It was a close game all the way and Longwood made just enough plays,” said head coach Tom Catapano, who six days earlier on the same court guided Baldwin to a sixth straight Nassau Class AA title. “It’s disappointing any time you lose. We had a rough shooting game but in the end we were a possession or two away from going back upstate,” he added.

Freshman Taydra Simpson scored 10 of her 11 points in the fourth, while junior Janelle Brown (14) and senior Nyia Langford (12 points, 20 rebounds) also scored in double figures for Longwood (23-2), which took the lead for good with 1:40 remaining on a free throw from senior Kanesha Strider. Senior Kaia Harrison had a game-high 22 points for Baldwin, the two-time defending state champs, which finished 20-3.

“We knew it was going to be a bit of a rock fight,” Longwood head coach James Castiglione said. “We tried to limit Harrison’s paint touches, but the biggest part of our game plan was not to let their two shooters, 21 [Alexis Aponte] and 1 [Mariah Benavides] get any open looks at all.”

Neither team led by more than four points until a Simpson free throw gave the Lady Lions a 46-41 advantage with 30 seconds left. On the previous possession, she hit her third trey of the final quarter in as many attempts off a nifty feed from a driving Brown.

Brown’s two free throws — Longwood struggled to the tune of 8 of 21 from the line — with six seconds to go sealed the outcome.

“It’s monumental to counter what Tom [Catapano] does,” Castiglione said. “They’re such a great program. It was a lot of fun and we had nothing to lose being the underdog. Our girls were loose at practice all week.”