It didn’t take long for Elmont to spoil Hauppauge’s Cinderella story.
The defending champion Lady Spartans scored the first eight points of the Long Island Class A girls’ basketball title game and put on a clinic before head coach Tom Magno lifted the starters less than a minute into the fourth quarter of a 56-30 victory before a crowd of 1,000 at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood on March 6.
Seniors Jada Fernandez (16), Kem Nwabudu (14) and Zarria Franklin (11) scored in double figures to lead Elmont (22-2), which held an eye-popping 50-10 lead with 7:17 remaining before the Lady Eagles, who upset each of the top three seeds to win the Suffolk crown, scored 20 of the game’s final 26 points.
“Everything we do runs through the defense,” said Nwabudu, who scored eight points in the second quarter as the Lady Spartans built a 31-9 halftime advantage. “Our defense generates offense,” she added. “If we’re not scoring through our set plays, it’s ok because we can score off turnovers.”
Elmont’s trapping defense forced a handful of 10-second violations in the first quarter and numerous turnovers throughout. Hauppauge was held to one field goal in each of the first three quarters before finding the net frequently in the fourth after a new set of opponents took the floor for the Nassau champs.
“We like to set the tone with defense and they really brought it today,” Magno said. “We saw film of Hauppauge’s ability to come back against good teams, so we knew not to take them lightly.
“We didn’t apply any pressure in the first few minutes, but once our guards starting trapping we forced them into a lot of mistakes and capitalized,” he added.
Elmont will face Mendon or Williamsville South in a state semifinal game this Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy at 8 p.m. The Class A championship game is Saturday at 8:45 p.m.
“We saw our boys’ team win a state championship two years ago and the Baldwin girls won last year,” Nwabudu said. “It’s a goal we set at the beginning of the season and it’s all we’ve been working toward.”
Fernandez continued her torrid postseason by scoring 13 points in the first half, including nine in the opening quarter, to help the Lady Spartans set the tone. “Jada’s coaches and teammates aren’t all that surprised by the way she’s played all season,” Magno said. “She’s played second fiddle in a sense to Kem and Zhaneia [Thybulle], but she’s a great player in her own right.”
Thybulle, Elmont’s star point guard, had six points and six assists while once again running the offensive show and spearheading the defensive pressure.
Franklin hit three of four shot attempts in the third quarter, including a trey, for seven points and senior Chiamaka Ubani added two baskets as the lead swelled to 48-10. Franklin sank the first basket of the fourth and the reserves took it the rest of the way.
Seniors Christina John and Lindsey Devine had eight points each to lead Hauppauge, which finished 17-8.
“We’re excited to win Long Island, but we still have one more championship to go,” Nwabudu said.