The streak continues. The Huntington girls’ basketball team opened up a gaping lead and went on to topple perennial county power Northport, 49-31 to advance to the Suffolk Class AA Final Four where it will play Sachem East on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Smithtown East.
The Blue Devils’ fast-paced offense and swarming defense proved too much for Northport to handle. Huntington led 12-6 after eight minutes of play, extending the advantage to 30-14 by halftime. The lead never fell below double digits for the remainder of the game.
“We just went out and played our game,” said forward Heather Forster, who led the Blue Devils with 17 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. Samantha Lynch had 10 points and playmaker Katie Nugent added eight points and dished out six assists.
Huntington is 20-0 this winter and it showed the crowd of 500 filling Louis D. Giani Gymnasium just why it has been so tough to beat. The Blue Devils have a variety of offensive and defensive weapons at their disposal along with a very deep bench. Reserves enter the game and are immediately in sync with their teammates on the court. Players push each other and are totally dedicated to winning.
With so much riding on the outcome, the Blue Devils knew this was no ordinary game. “There was definitely some pressure because it was a playoff game so I think keeping composed played a huge part in defeating Northport,” said sophomore guard Katie Reilly, who came off the bench and immediately put on a dazzling dribbling display. “We rely strongly on our defense to make it difficult for opposing teams to run their normal offense. With everyone committing to the system that our coaches have provided we were able to come out with a win.”
Huntington’s suffocating defense created a steady stream of scoring opportunities for the team’s hustling offense, with numerous fast breaks. The Blue Devils’ sharp passing effectively moved the ball around the court and inevitably inside to Forster or Joellen Ceide, who had six points and 12 rebounds.
Huntington’ well-balanced attack saw seven different players score in the game, including Mackenzie Maloney and Lindsay Sullivan, who had three points each and Caitlin Knowles, who added two points.
Forster said Huntington’s coaches challenged the team to hold Northport to 35 points or less. “We feel great to have kept them to 31 points,” she said. “They played hard and played a clean game. We have a lot of respect for them.”
In defeating Northport, the Blue Devils bested the winningest coach in New York State girls’ basketball history in Rich Castellano, who has claimed 10 county championships and five Long Island crowns during his long career with the Tigers.
“I don’t think Northport played us differently than any other team this season,” Lynch said. “We were able to move the defense and get the ball inside to Heather. Our defense was the difference in the game because we caused Northport to play faster than they normally would. Our defensive intensity remained high no matter who was in the game. We were able to hold them to just 31 points so we didn’t need to push the ball as much in transition.”
The Blue Devils intend to ride the wave they are on for as long as possible, continuing to take the season one game at a time. Friday afternoon’s game will put the team to the test again.
Sachem East overcame a 10 point deficit entering the final eight minutes of play to trip up Copiague, 60-58 and advance to the county Class AA semi-finals against Huntington.
Blue Devil Notes: Superintendent James W. Polansky was in the crowd for the game along with Huntington School Board member Tom DiGiacomo and high school librarian Patricia Dillon . . . Roslyn School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Joseph C. Dragone attended the game . . . Former Huntington girls’ basketball head coaches Ed Parry, Karen Fischer and Brad Reminick were at the game . . . A large student cheering section was especially loud in the Huntington bleachers . . . The Huntington Booster Club conducted contests and sponsored giveaways throughout the game . . . The Blue Devils were 10-0 at home this season . . . Nugent, Maloney and Sullivan all connected on three-pointers in the game . . . The Blue Devils scored only four points at the free throw line while Northport had only two points . . . Tickets for Friday’s game will be sold at the gate by Section XI for $6.