You have to turn the calendar back to the 2012-13 campaign to find the last time Baldwin didn’t win the Nassau Class AA girls’ basketball championship or go undefeated in conference play.
The Lady Bruins, in search of a seventh straight county title and 10th in 11 seasons, lost 95 percent of its offense from last year’s Nassau finals victory over Syosset and are a work in progress. They enter the second half with a 5-0 record in Conference A-II and 7-3 overall.
“We’re slowly but surely getting to where we want to be,” head coach Tom Catapano said. “It’s a process and it hasn’t been easy. I love the effort and energy we bring. We’ve been tested in non-league games and taken a bunch of close losses that will hopefully help us come February.”
One of the narrow defeats came last Saturday afternoon when Cambridge Central (Albany area), the No. 1-ranked Class C program in the state, outlasted Baldwin in triple overtime, 67-62, at the Rose Classic Superjam at Canarsie High School. The teams were knotted at 49 at the end of regulation, tied at 53 after the first OT and at 59 after the second OT.
“It was a great experience because the game presented a lot of great situations to be in,” Catapano said. “We played a team that’s highly ranked used to winning. It felt like a playoff game.”
Six-foot freshman Dallysshya Moreno popped in a career-high 22 points to lead the Lady Bruins. Seniors Elena Randolph and Dana Elcock added 12 apiece.
“When we lose close, it points out things we need to work on,” Catapano said. “It might sound so simple, but all three games we lost so far we didn’t shoot well from the free throw line. We’ve tried to simulate the situations in practice and we’ll keep working at it.”
One of Baldwin’s other defeats came in a rematch of last year’s Long Island championship won by Longwood. The Lady Lions held on 36-35 on Dec. 28. “We executed defensively,” Catapano said.
No conference opponent has cracked 43 points against the Lady Bruins, who’ve developed into one of the strongest defensive teams in the state under Catapano. Plainview gave them all they could handle in the conference opener, falling 47-43 as Elcock poured in 15 points. “Plainview is talented, experienced and dangerous for sure,” Catapano said.
Elcock and junior Laila Elor are providing stellar play off the bench and often getting more minutes than some starters, depending on the situation. Randolph, Moreno, Jasmin Green, Roxana Gayle and Nayeli Dowding comprise the usual starting five.
“Only Elena came into the season with big-game experience,” Catapano said of Randolph. “She’s been our only captain but we’re having the girls vote on a second one this week.”
Syosset, which returned 45 points from last year’s county final, appears to have the inside track to the top seed thanks to its dominance in AA-I.
“We’re gearing up for another run at it,” Catapano said. “We’re learning and growing every day. I think we’ll be right there in the end.”