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Locust Valley captures county crown

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Top-seeded Floral Park and No. 2 Locust Valley brought a combined 42 wins and no losses into last Saturday’s Nassau Class A girls’ basketball championship game, but only one could remain perfect and claim county supremacy.

After trailing by seven early, Locust Valley carried a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter where it took Floral Park’s best punch before senior Paige O’Brien scored its last eight points to secure a 43-34 victory in front of a crowd of approximately 2,500 at Farmingdale State.

“It came down to two undefeated teams and I’m really proud of our girls,” Locust Valley head coach Mike Guidone said. “We’ve been a great three-point shooting team all season with the exception of the semifinals when we had only one and had to grind against Manhasset. But whenever we needed a big three today, we got it.”

O’Brien (18 points) and sophomore Lindsay Hogan (12) hit four three-pointers apiece as the Lady Falcons (23-0) captured their first county title in 10 years and third in program history. They’ll travel to face Suffolk champ Westhampton for the Long Island Class A crown this Friday at 5 p.m. Senior Julia Sabatino had six points, sophomore Amber Linden added four, and freshman Payton Tini chipped in three.

“We’ve worked so hard and it feels great,” said O’Brien, who sank a huge trey with 3:03 remaining to snap an 11-point Floral Park run and extend Locust Valley’s lead to 38-32. “Our offense started a little slow, but then we started hitting our shots,” she added. “Lindsay couldn’t miss. She’s made six threes in a game before so what she did today didn’t surprise me.”

O’Brien swished another clutch shot from behind the arc with 1:25 left and iced the game with a pair of free throws with under a minute to go. She’s totaled 73 points in four playoff wins.

“It seems like Paige has taken every big shot this season and she developed a penchant for hitting them,” Guidone said. “We’ve worked on getting her to drive to the basket more, but she showed she can still drop outside shots at the biggest moments.”

Junior Caroline Lubicich had 11 points and freshman Maya Bateau added nine for the Lady Knights (20-1), who led 9-2 late in the opening quarter but never led again after falling behind with 2:07 remaining in the first half. Sabatino scored all of her points late in the second quarter and Locust Valley held an 18-14 halftime edge.

“We were confident at halftime, but at the same time we knew Floral Park was going to mount another run no matter what,” Guidone said. “We knew we had to play 16 more solid minutes to nail it down.”

The Lady Falcons outscored Floral Park 17-7 in the third quarter to provide themselves with breathing room that proved vital. O’Brien and Hogan set the tone with threes to open the second half. Hogan had nine points in the third, all from long range. Tini picked up her fourth personal foul just 90 seconds into the quarter, but everyone else picked up the slack, Guidone said.

O’Brien’s fourth foul, with 5:28 remaining in regulation, sparked Floral Park. Erin Harkins, who averaged 15 points per game, was held off the scoresheet until hitting a pair of treys midway through the fourth. Lubicich followed with another three and the Lady Knights were within a possession of getting even before O’Brien and Locust Valley dug deep.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Guidone said. “And to have our two seniors, Paige and Julia, lead us to this championship is really special.”