There have been tears aplenty the last two times the Manhasset girls basketball team played Lynbrook in the Nassau County Class A playoffs.
Last season, the Indians were crying tears of sadness after they were stunned in the quarterfinal round, as the top seed fell by 11 points.
Saturday at the David S. Mack Center at Hofstra University, the tears were for a very different reason: they were joyous and tinged with relief.
Led by the best career game by senior Ali McIntyre, and a fantastic fourth quarter, Manhasset captured its first county title since 1993, pulling away from Lynbrook for a 53-38 win.
The Indians (23-1) got 12 points and 14 rebounds from co-captain McIntyre, while junior Mia LoPinto had 12 and senior leading scorer Caitlin Barrett chipped in 11, as Manhasset led from the opening tip.
Manhasset will now face Suffolk County champ Shoreham-Wading River on March 11 at 2 p.m. at Farmingdale State.
“Before practice in our gym I would point to that banner, the one that showed the 1993 county championship,” head coach Lauren Sadeh said. “From Day 1, that was the goal, and I’m so proud of these girls for all the work they put in to do it. So happy and so relieved.”
“I honestly didn’t believe it would really happen, even when I looked at the scoreboard at the end of the game,” McIntyre said. “It feels so amazing to finally achieve this.”
Top-seeded Manhasset survived a 41-39 win in the semifinals against Bethpage, and figured to be out for revenge against the Owls, who cruised in their previous game to reach the finals.
And certainly, Manhasset would be out for revenge against Lynbrook, but Sadeh said that wasn’t the case.
“It wasn’t mentioned at all, not one time,” Sadeh said. “There was no revenge talk. I kept telling them they deserved to be here, they’d earned the No.1 seed, and to go out and play like they belong here.”
A very strong first quarter from Manhasset left them with a 19-13 advantage, and while Lynbrook got within four points at halftime (24-20) and within one, 30-29 late in the third quarter, the Indians held the lead throughout.
The final push that gave Manhasset a cushion came from McIntyre, the center. With the score 34-29, she sank two straight jumpers to push the edge to 38-29.
“I wasn’t sure I should shoot it but I figured why not, I was open,” McIntyre said. “And then on the second one I felt like, well, I made the last one. It felt really good.”
Nicoletta Tsiamis (11 points) sank a driving layup to put the Indians ahead, 42-35, and then Barrett, the leading scorer who’s going to Duke on a lacrosse scholarship next fall, sank seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes to salt the game away.
Free throw shooting was big for Manhasset Saturday; a trouble spot in the past, it made 17 of 25 overall.
And it was a dominant 19-9 fourth quarter for the Indians that allowed them to move on.
“We knew they were going to focus a ton on Caitlin and Mia,” Sadeh said. “We knew everyone had to step up and not just look to Caitlin; I was really happy to see us step up.”
With the win secured, Manhasset now looks to go even further. If it’s able to defeat Shoreham Wading-River, it would advance to the state tournament upstate in Troy, on March 17-18.
“We’re so excited to put up another banner and we definitely don’t want to stop now,” McIntyre said. “This was our first goal but we love playing together so much, we don’t want to stop now.”
“There was definitely a lot of pressure on us, being the 1 seed two years in a row, to get through and win,” said Sadeh, whose assistant coach, Chuck Collyer, was the head coach of that ’93 team that won the county crown. “Now I feel like the kids are hungry for more, and let’s see how far we can go.”