With the county championship hanging in the balance, Payton Tini and Reily Roberts again used some fourth quarter magic to lift the Locust Valley girls’ basketball team to prominence.
Tini scored 12 of her game-high 33 points in the final eight minutes while Roberts excelled on the defensive end as the second-seeded Falcons captured their third straight Nassau championship by outlasting No. 1 Cold Spring Harbor, 41-31, in the Class B final March 1 at Hofstra.
Roberts had four points and Ainsley Johnson and Ciara Coen provided the other scoring for Locust Valley (17-3), which returns to Hofstra March 8 to face Center Moriches in the Long Island Class B title game.
“It’s unbelievable,” Falcons head coach Mike Guidone said. “We were not expected by many to do much this year because we lost so many starters and contributors from our team, but our core stepped up and our new players really did an amazing job.”
The game was tied at 23 entering the fourth quarter when Tini began her final surge. She was trading baskets with the Cold Spring Harbor offense over the first three minutes before completing a 3-point play with 4:55 left to give the Falcons a 30-27 lead, one Locust Valley would not relinquish.
“I didn’t feel like I had to put them on my back,” Tini said. “I just feel like we all helped each other out and picked each other up.”
Roberts’ basket off a baseline drive pushed the Falcons’ lead to five with 4:29 left. Cleo Dallaris scored from underneath to move Cold Spring Harbor’s back to within three, but Roberts intercepted a pass on the Seahawks’ next possession and threw a long pass to Tini, who hit an off-balance jumper and ensuing foul shot to make it 35-29 with 3:22 remaining.
Cold Spring Harbor possessed the ball in the Locust Valley zone for almost a minute right after, but Roberts picked off another pass and fed Tini for a breakaway layup that pushed the Falcons’ lead to eight with 2:13 left.
“Reily has been a godsend this year,” Guidone said. “Her offense has been good, but teams are keying on her now and she doesn’t let it bother her. She contributes defensively with assists, rebounds. She just does it all.”
The Seahawks (15-4) moved to within six on Maggie Spehr’s jumper from the right side but couldn’t score the rest of the way and Tini and Coen converted two free throws apiece in the final minute to ice it.
“This feels so amazing,” Tini said. “We worked so hard to get here, so it just feels great to know that we got here and to do this again.”
In its semifinal game, Locust Valley outscored Seaford by a dozen in the fourth quarter for a 45-40 victory.
“We just try to stay and then grind people down and then our defense takes over,” Guidone said. “Payton Tini is a whirlwind and in the fourth quarter, I don’t think that people can stick with her.”
The victory continued an historic run for Locust Valley, who claimed its first-ever Long Island championship last year with its 54th straight victory, which extended the previous county record of 52 set by Hempstead from 1980 to 1983. The Falcons won 15 of their last 16 games this season, with the only blemish being a 38-36 defeat at Cold Spring Harbor on Jan. 31.
Locust Valley won the first meeting between the schools 44-27 on Dec. 21.
Both offenses struggled at the outset of the rubber match. Locust Valley led 8-7 after the first quarter, but both teams could only muster a combined nine points in the second for a 12-all tie at intermission.