Look out, Troy. Here come the Lady Indians!
Senior point guard Flo Hunte scored a team-high 19 points, 10 of which came during a momentum-changing run that carried from late in the second quarter to midway through the third, to lead Sewanhaka to a 66-48 victory over Mount Sinai in the Long Island Class A title game at Farmingdale State College last Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Lady Indians advanced to this Saturday’s NYS Final Four at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, where they will play Seton Catholic Central (Binghamton) at 9 a.m. in the first semifinal game. Senior Carly Bolivar added 16 points.
Mount Sinai (21-5) got 21 points from senior Brooke Cergol in the game which served as the quarterfinal round of the state tournament. Sewanhaka’s win marks the fourth consecutive season that a team from Sewanhaka District has advanced to the state semifinals. Elmont qualified the past two seasons, and Floral Park made the trip in 2016.
The Lady Indians held a slight 25-20 lead at the break, but took the floor for the second half like a thoroughbred blazing down the stretch. A layup by Nia Lariosa off a pass from Mia Weinschreider, followed by electrifying, coast-to-coast baskets by Bolivar and Hunte, started a 10-3 run that put Sewanhaka up 35-23 just three minutes into the third quarter.
Each time the Lady Mustangs made a run, Sewanhaka answered. Junior Samirah Akinwunmi, who has been a shutdown defender throughout the playoffs and played a key role in containing Mount Sinai’s top scorer Gabby Sartori, hit a pair of three-pointers to close out the third quarter to give the Lady Indians a 50-36 lead.
Akinwunmi, who sat for nearly two consecutive quarters with three fouls, is ecstatic about making the trek north. “This is the first time we’ve been able to reach this point, so we’re very excited,” Akinwunmi said. “This is another step in what has been an incredible journey for us.”
Senior Ashley Cattle flew under the radar for three quarters, but had a huge fourth. Cattle scored six points and pulled down six rebounds over the final eight minutes to help Sewanhaka (19-5) put the game on ice.
With Hunte and Bolivar looking to find their way in the early going, the Lady Indians, who never trailed after falling behind 2-0, got timely offense from Weinschreider. The junior forward, who has terrific court awareness and a high basketball IQ, scored all eight of her points in the opening half.
“Last week, I was a bit off, but we knew what was at stake and knew that we needed to get everyone involved,” Weinschreider said. “It really doesn’t matter to me that I’m scoring, as long as we’re all pushing and pushing. This is a very close group. We’re more than just a team.”
Hunte and Bolivar, who have been an incredibly consistent tandem throughout their careers at Sewanhaka, were as good as advertised. When Hunte wasn’t burying long threes or putting teammates in position to score, she was forcing turnovers on the defensive end and getting out on the break.
Bolivar, who missed just a pair of shots for a team that rarely hoists up a bad one, was impenetrable on defense and tenacious on the boards. The senior guard pulled down 10 rebounds.
Head coach Alex Soupios gave a ton of credit to his staff of Alison Leighton, Keri Schumacher, Brittney Messina, and Anthony Lapelosa for prepping the team.
“We had a week to prepare, and the coaching staff did an incredible job of breaking down all of the film and getting the girls ready for every possible situation they might face,” Soupios said. “The girls were like sponges all week. They were mentally and physically prepared. All they had to do was go out and do the job. I’m just so proud of them.”