The opening quarter proved crucial for South Side’s girls’ basketball team through the first dozen games of the season. Heading into their showdown with Conference A-I leader Wantagh, the Lady Cyclones stood a perfect 8-0 when leading after eight minutes, and an imperfect 0-4 when entering the second quarter with a deficit.
“As the season has progressed, we’ve done a better job of being awake for the first quarter,” said coach Katelyn Dunn, who’s team blanked host New Hyde Park in the opening stanza of a 37-30 victory on Jan. 18. “A lot of our girls had a long and successful fall season,” she added. “Soccer won a state title and volleyball won the county, and I think it took a little while for them to figure out how to work with each other on the basketball court.”
South Side received a balanced effort, with Dunn getting all 14 players some minutes, in the win over New Hyde Park. Senior Bridget Kiernan had nine points and 10 rebounds, Junior Hanna Merrifield added eight points and 10 rebounds, and junior Jessica Hawley had eight points and eight assists as the Lady Cyclones improved to 5-2 in A-I and 8-4 overall. “It wasn’t just our best first quarter of the season — we had our best first half,” Dunn said. “We outscored them 22-5. We had some turnover problems in the second half, but I never felt like we were in danger.”
Three days earlier it took a strong second-half performance to boost South Side over visiting Westbury, 42-28, in what Dunn described as “a strange game.” Merrifield had a big night, scoring 19 points and ripping down 13 rebounds. She went 7-for-8 on free-throw attempts. Junior Juliana Pellegrini chipped in eight points, going 4-for-4 from the line. The lead was only three at halftime. “Hanna’s doing a lot of the dirty work in the paint along with Bridget,” Dunn explained. “They’re getting second and third chances. It’s difficult for teams to match us when we play both of them.”
The win over New Hyde Park marked the tipoff of the second half of the conference schedule, which runs through Feb. 11. The Lady Cyclones will be out to avenge hard-fought losses to Wantagh (42-36 on Dec. 21) and Garden City (63-53 on Jan. 11) and earn a top eight seed in the Nassau Class A playoffs. “Both games were close,” Dunn said. “I came away feeling good each time.”
Garden City’s Samatha Auricchio, a sophomore, was lights-out against South Side with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting. She missed only two of nine shots from behind the arc. “We always had a hand in her face,” Dunn said. “It was just an incredible shooting night for her.” Kiernan and Hawley had 11 points apiece, and juniors Katie Pizzani and Caroline Leck both came off the bench to hit a trey for the Lady Cyclones, who trailed by 10 after the first quarter.