Syosset dethrones Baldwin in title game

Baldwin denied 10th straight county championship


In search of an unprecedented 10th consecutive Nassau County girls’ basketball championship, Baldwin fell short in Saturday’s Class AAA final against a Syosset team that’s been knocking on the door for quite some time.

The Braves built a 17-point lead in the first half, withstood a 16-point Baldwin run and led throughout an intense second half to emerge with a 49-44 victory at Farmingdale State College.

“Winning never comes easy and we have to tip our caps to Syosset,” Baldwin head coach Tom Catapano said. “We prepared like we always do and played well in spurts. They had an answer every time we got close, so give them the credit they deserve and I wish them all the luck in the Long Island game.”

Sophomore Samantha Schneider (15) and seniors Carly Greenbaum (13) and Olivia Mallor (11) all scored in double figures for Syosset (18-1), which won its first county title in 15 years and advances to face either Commack or Walt Whitman in the L.I. Class AAA championship next Sunday at Farmingdale State at 5 p.m.

“This is an extremely close-knit team on and off the court,” Syosset head coach Michael Ferreira said. “I’m so proud of them. We’ve been a resilient team all season and took Baldwin’s best punch. They have an unbelievable program and do an amazing job. It’s a big moment for our program and community.”

It was a one-possession game for much of the fourth quarter. Both Schneider and Greenbaum sank two free throws in the final minute to help Syosset hang on.

Baldwin (18-4), which led only twice, trailed 9-7 after the opening quarter and 26-9 with 3:41 left in the second when Catapano called timeout. The Lady Bruins caught fire thereafter, led by junior Payton Dulin (game-high 16 points), senior Renelle Grannum and freshman Chinaya Okogeri and got within 26-25 before Greenbaum hit a buzzer-beating trey to close the half.

“We went into halftime feeling OK,” Catapano said. “We knew the second half would be a war and they ended up making a few more plays than we did.”

An intense fourth quarter saw Syosset lead by as many as five. Dulin cut that margin to a basket with a traditional three-point play with 1:19 remaining, but Baldwin could only manage a Toni Smith free throw the rest of the way.

On the way to the finals, the Lady Bruins took down No. 8 Port Washington at home in the first round, 66-30 on Feb. 20, and No. 4 Massapequa, 58-48, in the semifinals four nights later at Farmingdale State.

Smith, a senior, paced the offense against Port with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

In the semis, Baldwin took a 12-7 lead against Massapequa after the first quarter and extended it to 23-14 at halftime in a game it led from the National Anthem. Junior Monique Echols had 13 points, Dulin had 11 and Grannum had nine as part of a mega-balanced effort. Catapano’s team had five different players with at least seven points with Okogeri (8) and Smith (7) also providing key contributions.

The Chiefs hung within striking distance, however, and got as close as 34-28 late in the third quarter before Baldwin netted seven of the next nine points to regain command. Savanna Appleton’s 11 points led Massapequa.