No Sadeh, no Barrett, no problem: Manhasset girls hoops looks to repeat LI championship run

No Sadeh, no Barrett, no problem: Manhasset girls hoops looks to repeat LI championship run
Mia LoPinto (front) and the Manhasset girls basketball team are hoping to return to the state semifinals this year, as they did in 2023. Photo credit: Kristin Perfetto

Last spring was a dream run for the Manhasset girls basketball team.

The kind of season that for most programs comes along once every decade or so. A veteran team, led by a senior star, rolled through the regular season, battled through the Nassau County playoffs and won the Long Island championship in epic fashion, erasing a big deficit and winning in overtime.

It was Manhasset’s first county title, and first Long Island title, since 1993, and even though the magic carpet ride ended in the state semifinals with a 13-point loss to Canandaigua Academy, the memories lingered all summer.

This season there’s a whole new look for Manhasset, in many more ways than one.

First of all, the whistle-blower on the sidelines is different. Head coach Lauren Sadeh gave birth to a baby girl in late August and is currently on maternity leave; she may return in a part-time role later in the season.

The new coach is perhaps the most experienced leader in all of the Manhasset school: Chuck Collyer, a longtime assistant and head coach in various sports, moves over one chair from his assistant role.

“I think this is about my 130th season of coaching altogether with all the sports,” Collyer said with a laugh. “And the girls knew me from last season so they’ve been great at buying in and doing what’s asked.”

Senior co-captains Mia LoPinto and Lauren Perfetto said the transition has been fairly seamless, and that while they miss Sadeh’s encouragement (and thick Long Island-accented yelling) they haven’t noticed much of a difference.

After losing its first two games this year, Manhasset (the school is currently without a nickname as a transition is made away from Indians) has won seven straight, and as of Dec. 22 stood 7-2.

“He was a big part of our success last year and he’s done a really good job asking each of us for our perspectives on the game, the team, anything that comes up,” LoPinto said. “He knows so much about basketball and honestly we know (Lauren) is still a part of things, helping plan practices and all that, so it hasn’t been much different.”

Two other big changes have affected Manhasset this season, one expected, one unexpected.

What everyone knew would happen was the departure of do-everythig guard Caitlin Barrett, who led the team in points and assists last season and now is a freshman at Duke, on a lacrosse scholarship.

Gone are the days when Manhasset could rely on “C.B.” to bail it out of a bad offensive possession, or hit clutch shots down the stretch.

“You don’t replace her, because she had unique talents,” Collyer said. “She handled the ball so well, she was so quick. But if you were in (our) system last year, and were back this year, it’s up to you to make yourself a little better. Everyone has to do a little more, and they have.”

“It hasn’t been one person trying to do what C.B. did, it’s everybody getting better,” Perfetto said.

The other change for Manhasset was unexpected; senior forward Nicoletta Tsiamis was a force in the paint and on defense during last season’s playoff run, and was expected to be a team leader in 2023-24. But Tsiamis tore the ACL in her knee at the end of soccer season this fall, and is out for the year.

LoPinto and Lauren Perfetto, each going to play Division I lacrosse next fall (LoPinto at Southern California, Perfetto at Loyola (Md.), both will help fill the void left by Barrett and Tsiamis. A deadly 3-point shooter, LoPinto has expanded her game this season and has poured in 11.2 points per game.

Suffering a shooting slump during the final stages of last year has made LoPinto even hungrier for success in her last go-round at Manhasset.

“Believe me, I haven’t forgotten those misses,” LoPinto said with a smile. ” But I kept telling myself that there are four other players on the court, and everyone kept stepping up. All you can do is use those experiences to make you better, and I think this year will be better.”

Perfetto has also emerged as a force this season, shooting from the outside more and continuing to pace the team in points (11.9 ppg) and rebounds.

“Mia’s game has expanded a little this year, she’s working to not just be a 3-point shooter,” Collyer said. “The ball looks so good coming off her hands, and she sees the court as well as any girl on the team.”

“She’s really our leader when it comes to saying what needs to be said, on and off the court,” LoPinto said of Perfetto.

Joining the starting lineup this year has been sophomore Lauren Connolly, a 6-foot sophomore center averaging 9.7 points per game, senior Chrisi Ladopoulos, and freshman guard Danielle Perfetto, Lauren’s sister who was a reserve on last year’s squad.

With what Collyer called “better depth” on the bench this season than last, Manhasset looks to go at least as far as last season, an experience that made the seniors eager for more. Who will take the big shots that always went to Barrett come playoff time in late Feburary remains to be seen, but so far the early returns have been solid.

“That was a huge experience for us, getting to states and winning so many close games in the playoffs,” LoPinto said. “Now you just try to achieve more than you did the day before, and keep getting better so we can get back there.”

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