Defending Nassau and Long Island Class A girls’ basketball champion Sewanhaka and upstart Kennedy were seemingly headed in opposite directions when they met for an early Conference A-II showdown on Jan. 8.
The Lady Indians dropped six of their first eight and were without the services of top outside threat Ashley Vigliotti, a senior expected to miss a few more weeks with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Lady Cougars were perfect through nine including four wins against Class AA schools.
Led by its defensive intensity and fueled by a boisterous home crowd, Sewanhaka exploded to a 12-point lead after one quarter and never trailed on the way to a 63-50 victory. Seniors Samirah Akinwumni (career-high tying 23 points), Mia Weinschreider (12), Angelica Lazo (10) and Nia Lariosa (10) all scored in double figures as the Lady Indians improved to 2-1 in conference play.
“I’m seeing it but I think it was tough for the girls to realize the improvement they’ve made since the beginning of the season because we weren’t getting results,” Sewanhaka head coach Alex Soupios said. “They’ve really grown into their roles. Kennedy has an excellent young team and I thought we did a great job pressuring the ball. It’s a nice win that should really boost our confidence.”
Juniors Cameron Montalbano and Rachel Nossen scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, for Kennedy (2-1 in A-II), which lost its seventh straight to the Lady Indians since becoming conference rivals. “We made a couple of runs but we were playing catch-up all night,” Kennedy head coach Mallory Freely said. “They brought a lot of pressure and we didn’t handle it as well as we’re capable. Too many turnovers.”
Sewanhaka scored the first nine points and led 17-5 after eight minutes with Akinwumni and Weinschreider combining for 14 points following senior Kayla Louissaint’s game-opening trey. Akinwumni, who served as the team’s defensive force during last season’s historic playoff run, has been a steady offensive contributor and went 11-for-12 from the line.
“Samirah was our third guard last year behind two exceptional players in Flo [Hunte] and Carly [Bolivar],” Soupios said. “It’s her time to shine and she’s been incredible.”
Moltalbano, who ranks second in the county in scoring at 21 points per game, scored six straight in the second quarter to get the visitors within 19-16. However, Nossen picked up her third foul with 3:11 remaining in the half and a couple of quick baskets Lariosa helped Sewanhaka take a 25-20 lead at intermission.
The teams traded baskets throughout the third quarter and the hosts took a 39-33 lead into the fourth. Kennedy closed within 41-37 on sophomore Jamie Maroof’s three-pointer, but the Lady Indians scored the next seven to lead by 11 with 4:54 to go. Eight of Lazo’s points came in the fourth. Senior Kenar Gelman chipped in seven points for the Lady Cougars, who host the rematch Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m.
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” Soupios said. “The crowd was loud and the music was blasting. That’s Sewanhaka basketball.”