If the Baldwin girls’ basketball team had taken a step back after winning back-to-back state championships, it would have been understandable. The Lady Bruins lost six of their seven leading scorers including the top two scorers in school history.
However, despite having a relatively inexperienced roster, Baldwin continued its dominance over Nassau foes, going undefeated in conference play for the sixth consecutive season.
The Lady Bruins enter the Class AA playoffs as the top seed with an overall record of 17-1. Their only loss came at the hands of perennial-power Ossining, the team it knocked off in the past two state title games.
Head coach Tom Catapano is confident entering the postseason. “I’m really pleased with this group,” Catapano said. “They’ve all stepped up and accepted their roles. They put in the time in the spring, summer, and fall, and came together. It’s been nice watching them jell and grow.”
Baldwin, which defeated Longwood (Suffolk County), Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn), Ketcham (Westchester), and The Mary Louis Academy (Queens) in non-conference play, outscored its Nassau Conference AA-2 opponents by an average of 38 points per game.
The team is led by Wake Forest-bound senior point guard Kaia Harrison, last season’s New York State Class AA Federation All-Tournament Team MVP. Harrison, who leads the team with 18.3 points per game, has taken her game to another level in 2018-2019.
“Kaia is the last of the crew that achieved so much,” Catapano said. “She has had to take on a different role as a senior. She always led by example, but we needed her to embrace the role of being more vocal. She’s probably taken three times the amount of shots that she was accustomed to taking. She’s still a true point, but we move her off the ball from time to time.”
The perimeter shooting of senior guards Alexis Aponte and Mariah Benavides has been a huge plus for the Lady Bruins. Benavidas, who has a team-leading 37 three-pointers, scored a career-high 21 points in a victory over East Meadow. Aponte hit four from behind the arc in the loss to Ossining. Each is averaging just about 10 points per game.
The Lady Bruins don’t possess a lot of size in the paint, but junior Elena Randolph and senior Jamiela Moore are solid in the frontcourt. While neither is looked upon to light it up on the offensive end, the two forwards consistently hit for double figures in rebounds each time they take the floor.
“Our strength is our ability to play as a group,” Catapano said. “The girls committed to playing about 60 games together in the off season. They’re a selfless team. Right now, we’re preparing like we always do. We’re not worrying about who we will be playing, but rather focusing on ourselves. Hopefully, it’ll be a long playoff run. I think we’ll be right there again.”
The Lady Bruins, looking for a sixth straight county crown, open the playoffs at home against Port Washington on Thursday at 7 p.m.