There were 70 seconds left in this remarkably successful season, and it looked like the end of the line on Saturday for the Manhasset girls basketball team.
The fans from Shoreham-Wading River, champs of Suffolk County class A, were going wild in the stands of Nold Hall at Farmingdale State University. The Wildcats led by six points 45-39, with but 1:10 left.
Everything, everything pointed toward a loss for Manhasset.
Except for the kids in the white uniforms who didn’t believe the scoreboard.
“No amount of time is too little time for us,” said junior forward Nicoletta Tsiamis. “We’re still in it until the buzzer goes off.”
And indeed they were. The Indians staged a remarkable late comeback, scoring six straight points, the last one coming from star senior guard Caitlin Barrett at the free throw, to tie the score at 45 and send the game to overtime.
And in OT, Manhasset dominated, and captured its first Long Island championship since 1993, 58-51, setting off a wild on-court celebration and in the stands from the hundreds of fans in attendance.
Snatching triumph from the firm jaws of defeat, Manhasset (24-1) are now two wins from a state title, as it will travel to Troy on Friday for the Class A semifinals.
“It’s surreal and amazing, and I can’t be more excited,” said Barrett, who scored a team-high 20 points and dished out six assists. “We stayed positive when we were down, nobody was teary-eyed or getting upset. We knew we’d worked so hard all year for these moments and that we’d come through.”
The comeback was started and finished by Barrett, but she had a ton of help on Saturday. There was junior forward Lauren Perfetto, who scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in maybe the best game of her career.
Tsiamis chipped in 10 points and six boards, while senior center Ali McIntyre added four points and seven boards for Manhasset.
But it still took some heroics for Manhasset to win. The comeback started with a 3-pointer from the right side from Barrett, her only triple of the day, that brought the Indians to within 45-42 with 57 seconds left.
Then after Manhasset forced a tie-up on defense, and got the possession arrow in its favor, Tsiamis hit a layup to make it 45-44.
Perfetto then made a steal and got fouled on her drive. She missed both foul shots after going 6-for-6 previously on the day, but Manhasset was still alive seconds later after S-WR’s GraceAnn Leonard missed both of her free throws.
Finally, it came down to one chance for Manhasset. With nine seconds left, Barrett drove into the lane looking to get to the basket but the Wildcats defense converged on her.
She dished to the right corner to LoPinto, who took a 3-pointer that would’ve won the game. It clanked off the rim right to Barrett, who immediately heaved it toward the rim, knowing the clock was about to expire.
It missed, but the referees’ whistle blew with .2 seconds left. Manhasset had one last try.
“I knew she’d make both,” Perfetto said.
“Nobody else we want at the line than C.B. right there,” Tsiamis added.
With the crowd roaring, Barrett sent her first free throw long, and suddenly the lacrosse star who helped that team win a state title last year had the season on her fingertips.
“It was definitely scary, I was shaking a little bit,” Barrett said. “I just tried to take a deep breath, calm myself down, and make it.”
She did, and four more minutes were put on the clock, and the entire momentum had shifted in the arena.
“On the bench (before OT) we were saying ‘this is our moment, it’s a new quarter, forget the rest, and just go out and win.’” Perfetto said.
Perfetto got the team going in the extra frame, getting a rebound and putback to put Manhasset up, 47-45. After a steal, Barrett was fouled and this time made both for a 49-45. The lightning-quick senior Barrett then scored a lefthanded scoop driving layup, 51-45, 1:53 left in OT, and that was pretty much the ballgame. Shoreham-Wading River (24-2) never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
“That kid Lauren Perfetto, she’s a big part of the heart and soul of this team,” Sadeh said. “She wants to work the hardest, put in the practice time, and she pushes everyone in practice to do that. You need that type of gritty kid on your team. She’s an unbelievable kid; I can’t say enough about her.”
The Indians came into the game flying high off their Class A county championship win over Lynbrook, but they got off to a rough start Saturday afternoon, committing turnovers on their first three possessions.
Shoreham-Wading River got off to a hot start, grabbing a 7-0 lead 3 minutes in, and the Indians trailed 10-2 after just three minutes, and it looked for a spell like Manhasset was going to get run out of the gym.
But slowly the Indians defense, playing mostly a 2-3 zone in the first half, slowed the Wildcats attack, and the offense got going.
A driving layup and a foul by Barrett got Manhasset going, and despite junior guard Mia LoPinto going to the bench for the rest of the half with two fouls just seven minutes into the game, the Indians surged back.
Freshman backup center Lauren Connolly gave Manhasset very good minutes in second quarter, with three points, and three blocked shots.
“She gave us some huge minutes, and scrapped and did so much for us,” Manhasset head coach Lauren Sadeh said of Connolly. “For a freshman to play with poise like she did was really great.”
The Wildcats didn’t make a field goal in the entire second period, and a 10-0 run by Manhasset, capped by a driving layup by Barrett, gave the Indians their first lead, 17-16, midway through the second quarter. Manhasset took a three-point lead into the locker room.
They came out strong, and I thought if we could just through the first quarter, we’d have a mental reset,” Sadeh said. “And then to go into halftime, up 3, given how far behind we were, and Mia not playing at all in the second quarter, I thought we were golden.”
Now, fresh off this Long Island title, Manhasset now travels up I-87 to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, for the state semifinals. The Class A semi for the Indians will be Friday at 1:30 p.m. against Canandaigua Academy, a school located in Canandaigua, about 30 minutes south of Rochester.
If Manhasset were to win, the championship game would be Saturday the 18th at 7 p.m. The school has never won a girls basketball state title.
“I never want the season to end,” Tsiamis said. “These are my best friends. I want to keep playing with them forever.”