When captain Trish Liotta went down with a leg injury early in the fourth quarter, with her Hampton Bays girls basketball team clinging to a one-point lead against Mattituck in the Suffolk County Class B Championship game, her team’s chances to win didn’t look good.
But her teammates—particularly fellow captain Alexis Fotopoulos—turned what easily could have been a morale-crushing situation into motivation on the hardwood at Northport High School.
Hampton Bays outscored Mattituck 26-13 in the final quarter, going up by as many as 14 points, en route to a 58-44 win. It’s the first county championship for the Lady Baymen since 2008.
Hampton Bays will play for the Long Island Championship on Tuesday, March 4, at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue at 6 p.m. Before that, the Lady Baymen will take on Suffolk County Class C champ Pierson in the county B/C game, which is not an elimination game, on Saturday, February 22, at St. Joseph’s College at 6 p.m. The winner of that game will face the county ‘A’ champ for the Small Schools Championship at Farmingdale State College on Monday, February 24, at 5 p.m.
Fotopoulos, a sophomore who scored her 1,000th career point in her team’s semifinal win over Mercy, said after Tuesday’s game that seeing her teammate Liotta go out with the injury lit a spark in her and her teammates. It was evident in the way Fotopoulos played—she finished with a game-high 33 points, scoring 14 of them in the fourth quarter.
Fotopoulos is known for being a threat from the outside, hitting more than 35 three-pointers this season. But in the county title game, she got the job done off the dribble, routinely driving to the basket while taking on two or more defenders and either scoring or getting fouled. She was particularly unstoppable in the fourth quarter, driving to the basket at will.
“I don’t know, I guess it just really gave us motivation,” Fotopoulos said after the game, referring to Liotta’s injury as well as one of her own—the game was paused briefly when Fotopoulos suffered a bloody nose, although it did not send her to the sidelines, or seem to faze her at all. “I don’t know why it took us so long to come through, but at least we did it. It just gave us a drive.”
The Lady Baymen were dominant all season long in League VII, winning the regular season title with a 9-1 record, including two wins over third-place Mattituck. But for the better part of three quarters on Tuesday night, the Lady Tuckers looked like they might pull off the upset, leading Hampton Bays by a few points for most of the game.
Fotopoulos and her teammates, many of whom have been on the varsity since the seventh or eight grade, weren’t about to let that happen. Especially not after living and breathing basketball together, both during the season and in the offseason, and while watching other teams in their league capture county titles while they fell short in the last few years.
When the final buzzer sounded, Fotopoulos headed directly to the bench to hug Liotta, and, with several of her teammates, helped her hobble over to center court so they could accept the county championship plaque.
“I guess it was our time to finally come through,” Fotopoulos said when asked what it felt like to win the county title. “It’s great. I’ve been waiting for this. I really wanted it, we all wanted it. We all talk about it all the time and now we did it.”