After winning its last two regular-season games to secure the No. 8 seed and opening the Nassau Class A girls’ basketball playoffs at home, South Side played with a lead and confidence throughout last Saturday’s 59-33 victory over No. 9 Manhasset.
The Lady Cyclones (11-7) scored the game’s first nine points and never trailed on the way to punching their ticket to a quarterfinal matchup against defending county champion North Shore, the No. 1 seed, on Wednesday evening. They had six players contribute at least six points, matching their highest offensive output of the season in the process. Junior Juliana Pellegrini poured in a game-high 14 points, including 13 in the first half, and handed out five assists, while junior Hanna Merrifield added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jackie Albanese and Erin Barry had seven points apiece for the Lady Indians (11-7), who fell behind 28-14 at halftime.
“We played a strong and balanced game,” South Side coach Katelyn Dunn said. “We were very prepared for their 1-3-1 [defense], and I thought we moved the ball in the half-court as well as we have all season. We went deep into the bench like we usually do, and everyone was ready to go.”
As much as the offense clicked — the Lady Cyclones scored in double digits in every quarter — it was the defense that set the tone early for the hosts. Manhasset started the game with four straight turnovers and didn’t score until 2:27 remained in the first quarter.
“We did a good job pressuring their backcourt and creating turnovers,” Dunn said. “One thing we wanted to accomplish was to make their guards uncomfortable and not give them too much space.”
Junior Bridget McFadden’s basket gave South Side an 11-7 lead after the first quarter and stopped a seven-point Manhasset run. The visitors got within 15-14 on the strength of three-pointers by Alexa Durso and Albanese midway through the second, but the floodgates opened thereafter. The Lady Cyclones scored the last 13 points of the half, with Pellegrini (seven) and junior Juliana Hadjiyane combining for all but two, and carried their momentum into the third quarter.
Merrifield (nine) and junior Jessica Hawley combined for 16 of South Side’s 18 third-quarter points as the advantage swelled to 46-22. Sophomore Victoria Mercado scored five of her seven points in the second half, and senior Bridget Kiernan had six points and 10 rebounds on the day.
“We weren’t completely happy with how we closed the regular season because we were unable to beat Wantagh or Garden City,” Dunn said of the top two teams in Conference A-I. “But the playoffs are a new beginning.”