The bus will continue to roll on—at least for one more stop.
The Hampton Bays girls basketball team defeated Oyster Bay, 61-56, at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue on Tuesday night to win its first Class B Long Island Championship since 2008.
The Lady Baymen’s motto since the summer has been “The Bus Leaves Now,” in relation to taking the bus upstate to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York, where the State Championships will be held on Friday, March 14.
Hampton Bays, though, is still one win shy from boarding the bus and reaching its ultimate goal. The Lady Baymen must still win their regional final game on Saturday, March 8, at New Rochelle High School. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. and the Lady Baymen will take on Woodlands High School in Westchester County, the winner of the Section I/Section IX game, for the right to travel to the Hudson Valley later this month.
Winning the Long Island title and reaching the regional final matches the best season in Hampton Bays program history.
“We’ve always talked about doing this at the beginning of the season and now we’re there,” said Hampton Bays sophomore co-captain Alexis Fotopoulos, who scored a game-high 22 points, after the game. “It’s great. It’s huge. It’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Hampton Bays head coach Pat McGunnigle shared the same sentiments. “Oh, it’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s a dream come true as they say, right?”
Hampton Bays senior co-captain Trish Liotta was questionable entering Tuesday night’s game with an injured knee she suffered in the Suffolk County Championship a few weeks ago. She hadn’t played in any of the Section XI Tournament games last week, but gave it a go against Oyster Bay.
Liotta, who finished with 14 points, was playing through obvious pain but still came up big for her team in the second half, when it counted the most.
“Oh my God. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy,” she said. “To finally win what we’ve been working for and looking forward to all year, it’s just an amazing feeling that I can’t even describe.”
Hampton Bays, as it has in most of its wins this season, received contributions from nearly everyone on its roster on Tuesday night. Senior Haley Wood (12 points) went 4 for 4 from the field in the first quarter to bring the Lady Baymen back from an early 7-2 deficit to start the game. Hampton Bays led 17-9 by the end of the first.
Oyster Bay went on a 14-3 run in the second quarter, though, and after junior Mary Kelly Hilton scored with time expiring in the first half, the Lady Baymen held on to just a 26-25 lead at halftime.
Oyster Bay did not shoot well from the field in the third quarter and Hampton Bays enjoyed a 40-33 advantage entering the fourth quarter. But Oyster Bay derailed the Lady Baymen’s plans to cruise to a victory, finding its stroke from the field in the final frame.
Oyster Bay went on a 7-0 run, which was eventually squashed by Liotta when she came off the bench from nursing her injury to hit a big three pointer that kept Hampton Bays out in front, 43-38. Fotopoulos then scored on a layup, was fouled and hit her free throw to widen her team’s lead to 46-38.
Oyster Bay then started to sink three pointers. Gianna Gotti, an eighth-grader, sunk two threes, and also hit two free throws, and sophomore Christina Testa added a three and a layup to give Oyster Bay a 53-52 lead in the final frame.
Hampton Bays rebounded as Fotopoulos scored on a layup and then sunk two free throws of her own. Junior Sarah Jiudice, who was in for starting junior Alex Maitland-Ward after she fouled out of the game, then took a charge at the top of the key, which turned over the ball and essentially sealed things up for Hampton Bays.
McGunnigle said his team showed it had a lot of guts in the final quarter, when both teams went back and forth.
“They really wanted it,” he said of his team. “We just couldn’t get away from them. Every time we’d do something, they would do something to match it. We tried to close out their three-point shooters, we just didn’t get there.
“It was a good game,” McGunnigle added. “Everyone contributed, too. I had some kids go in and do some different jobs.”
McGunnigle noted that Liotta’s game was nothing short of unbelievable, being that she not only came off the bench with an injury, but she came off the bench and played hard. He also mentioned that sophomore Hannah Reed was playing with a separated shoulder, an injury she suffered a few days back in practice.
“It was just getting used to playing with the injury because I’ve never had one,” Liotta said. “I was rolling it a few times, but sitting on the bench I just knew I had to get back in the game. I couldn’t sit there any longer. The team needed me.”