February has been much more fun compared to the end of December and first half of January for Sewanhaka senior Ashley Vigliotti, who battled an ankle injury and the flu for three weeks before helping the defending Nassau and Long Island Class A girls’ basketball champions return to the postseason.
Last Friday night, her sick shooting led the No. 12 Lady Indians to a 50-39 victory over No. 21 West Hempstead in an outbracket playoff game. Vigliotti hit three of four attempts from behind the arc and scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds as the hosts led from start to finish.
“We felt good in warmups and had a lot of energy,” Vigliotti said. “We knew we had to be there for each other and I thought we passed the ball really well. We were focused.”
Seniors Samirah Akinwunmi (11) and Mia Weinschreider (10) also scored in double figures, senior Angelica Lazo added eight points and six assists, and senior Nia Lariosa had 12 rebounds and five blocks for Sewanhaka (8-12), which advanced to face fifth-seeded Plainedge this Thursday. The Rams (9-8) got 11 points apiece from sophomore Sanaia Estime and senior Korrina Plair.
“We’re a different offense with Ashley in the lineup,” Sewanhaka head coach Alex Soupios said. “She missed the entire first half of the conference schedule and teams just packed into a zone and dared us to shoot. With Mia and Nia down low and Samirah’s ability to slash to the basket, it just makes us that much more dangerous. And Angelica has a great motor and toughness.”
Feeding off the home crowd, the Lady Indians took command early as all five starters scored within the first five minutes. They led 17-4 after the opening quarter. “I thought we did a good job breaking the press and limiting turnovers, but we didn’t shoot well and they dominated the boards,” West Hempstead head coach Chris Van Kovics said. “It’s a tough gym if you’re not used to it.”
Vigliotti, who netted 17 points Feb. 5 against Valley Stream Central, scored the first five points of the second quarter and Sewanhaka was well on its way. Later, she capped a 12-5 run with her third trey of the half and the lead swelled to 20.
“It’s a circle of energy and we talked about it before the game,” Soupios said. “We wanted to start strong and get the crowd going. And then we wanted to feed off the crowd.”
Lariosa brought the house down with a buzzer-beating shot and the Lady Indians took a 31-13 halftime lead. The margin peaked at 23 late in the third quarter on a driving layup by Akinwumni.
West Hempstead, which brought a nice cheering section of its own, got its offense in gear in the fourth with 17 points and closed by hitting 9 of its last 10 free throws. “We had a nice season,” Van Kovics said. “Some of the things we pride ourselves on, we just didn’t do well today.”