When the League II champs Lindenhurst (14-0, 19-1 overall) shows up for the Suffolk County Class AA Girls Basketball Final Four on Saturday, they’ll be taking the court with three other undefeated league champions. But, aside from 2010 state champs Sachem East, it won’t be the usual suspects in the Big Dance.
Lindenhurst turned back for the third time in as many meetings this season on Wednesday night at Lindenhurst High School. Now, the Lady Bulldogs will set their sights on League III champs Riverhead (12-0, 19-1), who haven‘t gotten this far in playoff action in more than 30 years.
Meanwhile, Sachem East will take on League IV champs Hauppauge (14-0) which hasn‘t seen much playoff action in fifteen years or more.
“We’ve been in the playoffs for 36 years,“ said Northport Coach Rich Castellano. “All the playoffs. But Lindenhurst put on an awesome display of shooting today. I hope they go far."
“We’re going to give it a shot,” said Lindenhurst Coach Greg Flynn, whose hasn‘t gotten this far since 1987.
Added Lindenhurst Forward Val Oyakhilome: “We’ve never had a chance to play at this level, but we’ve put the effort in and now we have that chance. All that hard work paid off.”
And then some.
Lindenhurst’s outside game was on fire against Northport in the quarterfinals - led by Oyakhilome (36 points, including seven three-pointers). She was equally deadly in half-court action and in fast breaks - on at least two occasions hauling in a defensive rebound, running it the length of the court and taking it into the paint for scores.
Combining for seven more long-range bombs were Colleen Ames (13 points), Shannon Crehan (10 points) and Sammy Martinez (6 points).
Northport, trying to solve the Lindenhurst puzzle for the third time this year, found some effectiveness with an offensive game that included back-door passes and a number of good looks to inside players Kristen Cleary and Dorrien Van Dyke (11 points each).
“The back door was effective for them for a while,” said Flynn. “We were overplaying them on the wings, because we knew they like to cut from the perimeter to the basket."
But the Lady Bulldogs began to rotate their defense, increasingly causing turnovers - and after four minutes of head-to-head play, the Lady Bulldogs’ ability to produce from the perimeter proved too much for the Lady Tigers.
After an early 6-6 tie it was 16-8 Lindenhurst going into the second quarter. Northport came out swinging in that frame, scoring on buckets for Cleary and Van Dyke, but once again Oyakhilome took over, connecting for 12 points on an 18-10 run that left the Lady Tigers standing in the dust, 34-21 at half.
The Lady Bulldogs kept pouring it on in the second half, and the only thrill that Northport could offer its fans was when Bryce Paganas, deep in her own team’s end of the court, hit a Hail Mary buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.
Aside from that, the Lady Bulldogs were able to maintain their 20-point advantage into the waning minutes of the game - and at the 3:23 mark, both coaches substituted out their starters as the clock wound down.
Like Whitman, North Babylon, and other perennials, this year’s Northport Tigers will have to watch the action at SUNY Farmingdale on Saturday from the stands.