Amid the building chaos of a mounting Massapequa comeback, Baldwin senior Mariah Butler came up with a steal at half court, calmly pulled up on her way to the basket and drained a jumper at the free-throw line with 2:02 remaining to help Baldwin hold on for a 54-46 win and its fourth Nassau County Class AA girls’ basketball championship in the last five years at LIU Post last Saturday.
“That was one of those no, no, no, yes, yes, yes [situations] as a coach,” Lady Bruins head coach Tom Catapano said. “She played on instinct and like a senior.”
Baldwin (15-1 overall) advanced to the Long Island title game this Friday night, a matchup with Sachem East, the Suffolk County Class AA champions. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Sophomore Lames ElGammal, who scored 11 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and added a pair of steals, was named the Nassau Class AA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “She’s fierce and really coming into her own,” Catapano said. “She’s an absolute worker and super coachable.”
Though the Lady Chiefs chipped away at what had grown to a 19-point Lady Bruins lead in the third quarter, there simply wasn’t enough time or possessions in the game to fight all the way back. After Butler’s bucket, Massapequa managed to cut the lead to six points with 16 seconds left, but three late free throws by junior Tiara Place provided the final margin of victory. “This time is just as sweet as the first,” Catapano said.
As sweet as the finish was, a sour start threatened to derail Baldwin’s title hopes. A few early fouls on senior Tyra Harrison and a few quick whistles against the Lady Bruins in the low post helped Massapequa open up a nine-point lead in the first quarter. After the last basket in the early run, a layup by sophomore Melanie Hingher, who scored a game-high 30 points, Catapano called a timeout.
“We just told everyone to settle down, chip away and relax,” Catapano said of the chatter during the break. “This team can score a lot of points in a short amount of time.”