The Baldwin girls’ basketball team has found its usual winning form this season after overcoming adversity before the first practice.
The Lady Bruins (11-1) lost two starters for the season from last year’s team that reached the state finals including reigning All-State center Dallysshya Moreno and All-Long Island shooting guard Renelle Grannum, who suffered torn ACL tears during the offseason prior to their senior year. Baldwin was also without senior All-County point guard Kateylyn Simpson early in the season after she dislocated her kneecap over the summer.
“It’s definitely been a unique year and a challenging one,” said longtime Baldwin head coach Tom Catapano. “We have really never experienced anything like this before in my 13 years as head coach.”
Despite the big losses, the Bruins have roared through its schedule so far posting blowout margins in most of its 11 wins including a 60-20 victory at Valley Stream Central on Jan.17 where Baldwin led 35-8 at halftime. Baldwin’s recent dominance was also evident in a 78-37 victory at East Meadow in which sophomore guard Payton Dulin scored 22.
Dulin has emerged as an offensive leader in her second season starting in the backcourt with key veteran players sidelined. She has versatility and will often switch between the point and shooting guard roles during games.
“She is a combo guard who will go back and forth between handling the ball and also playing on the wing,” Catapano said of Dulin. “She’s had multiple 20-point games and is playing really well for us.”
Simpson returned to the lineup from her knee injury in mid-December and has shined with seven double-digit games including 20 points along with five assists in a 73-39 win at Port Washington on Dec. 17. She is the team’s top defender who will often guard the other team’s best player.
Baldwin has also gotten strong play in the frontcourt from sophomore Toni Smith, who was the first player off the bench during last year’s run to a Long Island Class AA title. Smith registered a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds in a 65-52 win at Plainview JFK on Jan. 11.
With the Bruins winning most games conveniently, it has enabled Catapano to play his entire roster, which he said is key in terms of keeping players fresh for the playoffs and developing for future seasons.
“The kids work extremely hard at practice and the end result is that they’re going to play in most of the games,” Catapano said. “It is also great for us because we get a chance to see what they can do in some live action and being as extremely young as we are I think that that experience has been really, really valuable for us.”
Catapano has pieced together a challenging non-league schedule to prepare his team for the upcoming playoffs where Baldwin is aiming for a ninth straight county crown. The Bruins only two losses were a 58-43 setback to Bishop Scanlan in the Bronx last Friday and 56-43 to Maryland’s Bullis School on Jan. 15.