A new Nassau Class A girls’ basketball champion will be crowned March 2.
That’s because title-holder Elmont, in an underdog role as the No. 12-seed this season after winning back-to-back county and Long Island championships, was knocked off Friday night by No. 5 South Side, 48-39, in a first-round playoff game.
Junior Katie McMahon scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half and had 11 rebounds, and senior Kelsey Barrett added eight points and 14 boards to lead the Lady Cyclones, who improved to 17-3 and advanced to face fourth-seeded Sewanhaka in the quarterfinals. Senior Gigi Faison, who fouled out with 2:28 remaining, paced the Lady Spartans (12-8) with 14 points.
“Elmont is unbelievably athletic, but we had a size advantage and our goal was to get the ball inside,” South Side head coach Dan Ferrick said. “If we’re hitting shots from inside three feet, we’re difficult to beat. The first half was rough, but we responded in the second half and it was a total team effort.”
Elmont led by three at halftime but managed just five points in the first and third quarters in what was the fourth game it failed to score 40. Senior Alexis Steward had seven points and freshman Keilah Watkins chipped in five.
“The big thing for us all season has been finishing,” Elmont head coach Tom Magno said. “We had trouble putting the ball in the basket, but South Side’s a good team and we’ve got to give them credit. They forced us into a bunch of turnovers in the second half.”
McMahon was saddled with two fouls in the first three minutes and a sloppy opening quarter for both teams ended with South Side leading 7-5. The Lady Spartans scored the first nine points of the second but lost senior Nataiya Bailey, who totaled 21 points in the last two regular-season games, to an ankle injury in the process.
The Lady Cyclones responded to a timeout to score seven straight to pull even, however, the hosts trailed 20-17 at halftime after Elmont freshman Rae Sawyer banked in a midcourt shot at the buzzer.
South Side trailed 24-19 following a short jumper by Faison midway through the third quarter before McMahon sparked the comeback. She keyed a 12-1 run to close the quarter with a couple of field goals and a free throw, while junior guard Theresa Kenny set up a trey by sophomore Olivia Medford and a fast-break layup by senior Erin McElwain.
“We didn’t change anything at halftime,” Ferrick said. “Our shooting was off. We just talked about hitting layups and free throws.”
The Lady Cyclones went 5 of 12 from the line in the first half but made the most of their chances in the second half, going 9-for-14.
Elmont got within striking distance early in the fourth thanks to a Watkins trey, cutting South Side’s lead to 35-32, but McMahon ignited a 10-3 run on the next possession with a long trey as the shot clock expired.
“We have nice balance,” Ferrick said. “And when Katie [McMahon] is putting up the points she has in the last three games, it makes everyone else better.”