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Wantagh tops North Shore in OT

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A season filled with mediocre starts and strong finishes continued for Wantagh, only this time the Lady Warriors had to work overtime Jan. 10 to get the result they wanted in a showdown for the Nassau Conference A-IV girls’ basketball top spot.

Trailing at North Shore by 11 with 7:12 remaining in regulation and struggling offensively, Wantagh surged behind junior Julia Wilkinson to force OT and then scored 16 in the extra four-minute period to earn a 55-49 victory.

Wilkinson had 17 of her game-high 22 points in the final 12 minutes, including the game-tying free throw with 23.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and senior Caitlin Albanese put the Lady Warriors (5-0 in A-IV, 7-4 overall) ahead to stay with a driving layup with just under two minutes left in OT. Juniors Gabriella Scott and Jennifer Walton had 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Lady Vikings (4-1; 7-4.)

“We were frustrated, but I think we played great defense and eventually the shots started to fall,” said Wilkinson, who hit 12 of 14 free throws. “We felt the momentum change in the fourth. To come back and beat a great team like North Shore on the road will give us a lot of confidence.”

The lead changed hands five times in overtime. The Lady Vikings moved ahead for the last time – 45-44 – with 2:07 to go following Scott’s two free throws. Albanese scored on the next possession and junior Morgan Flaherty (11 points) quickly stole the in-bounds pass and hit a layup for a 48-45 advantage.

“In a good way or a bad way, we’ve been in this situation a bunch of times before,” Wantagh head coach Stan Bujacich said. “We came from pretty far back against Farmingdale, Floral Park and Hills East. The girls just have a resolve in them and keep plugging away.”

North Shore led most of the way. It was 17-8 midway through the second quarter, 18-17 at the half, 32-25 through three quarters and a high-water mark of 36-25 less than a minute into the fourth thanks to baskets by freshman Morgan Griffin (10 points) and Scott.

“Basketball is a game of runs and no lead felt comfortable tonight,” North Shore head coach Keith Freund said. “We made a couple of mistakes late in the fourth quarter and overtime, and they’ve got a good team that capitalized.”

Walton entered — and exited — the game leading Nassau County in three pointers made, reaching 45 in the opening quarter, and pacing the Lady Vikings’ offense at better than 20 points per game. She picked up her fourth foul with 4:37 remaining in regulation but never came off the floor and avoided a fifth. “Jen’s become the leader of our team in so many ways,” Freund said.

Senior Andrea Liotta led North Shore’s defensive effort before fouling out in overtime. Albanese had eight points and junior Jenna Kaufmann added seven points and 10 rebounds for Wantagh, which hosts the rematch Feb. 6.