Manhasset girls rally late but fall in class AA county finals

Manhasset girls rally late but fall in class AA county finals
Manhasset sophomore center Lauren Connolly (14) drives in while Lauren Perfetto (10) looks on during Manhasset's loss to East Meadow Monday. Photo credit: Kristin Perfetto

First, there were tears.

There always are when a season and a dream ends.

But then, there was singing. Really, really loud singing.

The Manhasset girls basketball team was in their locker room Monday night at Farmingdale State around 7 p.m., and the dozen teenage girls belting out Alessia Cara at the top of their lungs could be heard through the walls.

And you don’t have to change a thingThe world could change its heartNo scars to your beautifulWe’re stars and we’re beautiful

Kids are pretty resilient, and so after a valiant comeback fell short in the Class AA county championship game, and East Meadow had finished celebrating a 69-66 win, the Manhasset players were still trying to keep their chins up.

“We have so much to be proud of,” senior Lauren Perfetto said.

A great season that saw the defending county and Long Island champs get back to the title game, despite many obstacles: Leading scorer and do-everything guard Caitlin Barrett graduated. Head coach Lauren Sadeh missed most of the year on maternity leave, returning late in the season as an assistant to head coach Chuck Collyer.

And returning starter Nicoletta Tsiamis, a tenacious scorer and rebounder during last year’s run to the state final four, tore her ACL in November and missed the season.

Given all that, and the fact that it struggled mightily against the East Meadow swarming defense Monday, it’s a heck of an achievement to get this far.

“We got everything we wanted from these kids every day, just tonight we couldn’t overcome our mistakes, and East Meadow played the way they had to to beat us,” Collyer said.

The No. 7 seeded Jets dominated the middle two quarters of the game and looked to be en route to an easy win, leading 61-47 after a banked-in 3-pointer from the top of the key from Kayla Lederer. There were only 5:10 left to play, the East Meadow fans were smelling the first county title in girls hoops, and everything said the game was over.

Except it wasn’t. A quick five points by Manhasset cut it to nine, then a layup by Chrisi Ladopoulos brought the score to 63-56 with 2:40 to go.

East Meadow was suddenly forcing shots and making turnovers under some full-court pressure defense, and Manhasset was capitalizing.

Freshman Danielle Perfetto was sensational all night, scoring a career-high 19 points, and her 3-pointer from the right side crept Manhasset to within 63-59 with 120 seconds left.

Senior Mia LoPinto (12 points) drained another three from the right side and it was 65-62, and now the Manhasset fans came alive.

Then, down three, Lauren Perfetto (15 points 10 rebounds) sank a putback layup to pull Manhasset within 67-66, with 8.6 left.

But East Meadow’s Charlotte Viola hit two free throws to push the lead to three, and with sharpshooter LoPinto having fouled out seconds earlier, Manhasset was unable to get off a game-tying three.

“(At 61-47) I was thinking ‘we better not lose by 20,’” Collyer said. “But we hit some 3’s and got some momentum, forced them to use timeouts, and had a chance. But even in the comeback, we had a few mistakes with turnovers, and when you’re down that much, you have to be perfect to come back and win.”

Turnovers indeed were the bugaboo for Manhasset (19-4), as momentum swung wildly throughout the game.

Manhasset looking poised and polished in the first quarter, led by sophomore center Lauren Connolly’s nine points in the opening eight minutes (she finished with 14 and 10 boards), and grabbed a 20-12 lead through one.

But East Meadow battled back behind a torrent of threes, making 11 on the night, and turnovers killed Manhasset.

“We weren’t smart at times,” Lauren Perfetto said. “We needed more consistency with ballhandling.”

East Meadow’s Allison Twible (20 points) and Viola harassed Manhasset’s guards and just kept bombing away from behind the arc, and by the second and third quarters they were falling.

Offensively Manhasset failed to take advantage of the height edge Lauren Perfetto and Connolly had, and Collyer said getting away from that, and static movement on offense, was Manhasset’s undoing.

Still, after the furious comeback fell short, Manhasset’s players appreciated what they had done. Perfetto and LoPinto will graduate, but Sadeh is coming back to be head coach (Collyer said he’s happy to slide back to assistant), and with a young core led by Danielle Perfetto and Connolly, Manhasset will likely be back contending for a county crown next year.

“We just want to continue on and build on what they did,” Danielle Perfetto said. “My sister was amazing and the other seniors did so much for us, winning last year and doing great this year. We have to keep it going and I know we can.”


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