East Meadow rolls into county final


East Meadow’s girls’ basketball team had already made history before it took the court for Monday night’s Nassau Class AA semifinal playoff matchup against a conference rival it lost to twice during the regular season.

But the Jets, who upset No. 2 seed Garden City Feb. 20 to advance to the Final Four for the first time in program history, kept their feet on the gas and proved once again how difficult it is to beat an opponent three times.

Senior Charlotte Viola had a game-high 19 points, freshman Angelina Cronin poured in 17 and sophomore Kayla Lederer 11 as seventh-seeded East Meadow blew out No. 3 MacArthur, 60-25, at Farmingdale State College.

“Coming into the playoffs we thought we had a good chance to go far,” Viola said. “We have a special team and beating Garden City gave us a lot of confidence. We knew we could hang with MacArthur after they beat us in two close games.”

The Jets (18-5) will try to capture their first-ever county championship next Monday at 5 p.m. when they face top-seeded Manhasset, which won last year’s Class A title. The Indians (19-3) held off No. 4 South Side, 44-38, in the other semifinal.

Sophomore Ysabelle Perillo led MacArthur (18-4) with 8 points. The Generals won their fourth consecutive conference crown this winter and went undefeated in the process, knocking off East Meadow twice.

But it was all Jets Monday night after a hard-fought opening quarter ended with them leading 7-5.

“We had a bit of a slow start with seven turnovers in the first quarter, but after that we played near perfect,” East Meadow head coach Peter Olenik said. “Offensively we moved the ball very well and hit shots. It’s an unselfish group and we’re playing our best basketball of the season at the right time.”

East Meadow scored the first 11 points of the second quarter and then six straight after sophomore’s Meghan Campbell’s basket temporarily stopped the bleeding for MacArthur, which defeated No. 6 Division in the quarterfinals.

Viola drained a pair of three-pointers late in the half and the lead swelled to 30-14 at intermission. It was the second-lowest scoring half of the season for the Generals, who averaged 66 points in two wins over the Jets.

“There wasn’t anything we were looking to do different tonight than we did against them in the regular season,” Olenik said. “MacArthur is a strong team. Tonight we were able to force a lot of turnovers and once we got a good lead, we didn’t let them back in it.”

As they did in the 56-55 playoff win at Garden City by scoring 15 points apiece, Cronin and junior Allie Twible carried East Meadow in the third quarter, combining for 10 points to up the lead to 43-23 heading into the fourth. Viola scored the first eight points of the final quarter.

“Charlotte was incredible tonight,” Olenik said. “They all were, really.”