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Garden City Seizes Nassau Class A Title
When the Garden City Trojans found themselves in a nail biter with the Floral Park Knights, Head Coach Anthony Sparacia gave his team two simple instructions: Keep calm and don’t give up the lead.
“The key was to not relinquish that lead,” he said. “Floral Park tied it in the fourth quarter, but it was important to not let them take an advantage. We made sure we were relaxed.”
That composure and protection of the lead paid dividends in a late fourth quarter stretch where both teams struggled to score. The Trojans were able to hold serve, make big plays and escape with a hard fought 44-40 win.
Garden City had a handle on the lead early, jumping out to a strong 15-8 start behind the shooting hand of sophomore Becky Reifler. But Floral Park began to percolate in the second quarter, thanks to the guard – forward tandem of Valerie Fox and Lorraine Hickman. And despite the double and triple teams, Hickman became the Trojans’ antagonist in the paint.
“We wanted to try to get Hickman out of her rhythm,” Coach Sparacia said. “But she’s one of the strongest girls I’ve ever seen.”
The 6’0” sophomore brushed off Garden City defenders and pounded through the pressure to pull the Knights within five. And while all eyes were on her, Fox took advantage of open looks and buried a pair to make it a one point game by halftime, 21-20.
The Knights remained on Garden City’s heels in the second half, mostly via an unstoppable force in Hickman. When she wasn’t scoring, she stripped the Trojans of second opportunities on their offensive glass and fed a slick pass to Jeanna Orfanos for a bucket that made it a 29-27 game. Floral Park would finally tie it with a Hickman deuce early in the fourth, and a trey from freshman Erica Bowe and a steal and ensuing basket from Fox at the 2:50 mark were also good for keeping it even. But Floral Park never advanced.
“Overall we played together,” Coach Sparacia said. “We kept that lead throughout.”
And although no player in Garden City uniform caught the spark, the team’s depth made the road to victory a one brick at a time approach.
The go ahead bucket was a timely one from Reifler, who scored a team high 11 points. But the Trojans inched their way to the victory party from the stripe and by doing all the small things during crunch time.
“We didn’t really shoot well from the free throw line,” Coach Sparacia said. “We were a little tired, because I really rode the horses in the second half.”
“Kerry has such a great IQ, she knows when to force left, force right, when to double, when to back off,” said Coach Sparacia. She also knows when to hit a big free throw, as she followed up a miss with a make to score Garden City’s final point with time running out.
“I knew I had to hit one of those free throws to make it a two possession game,” saidf McCarraher, who scored 8 points. “And I was so relieved when I did.”
Hickman’s 17 point, 18 rebound performance was a thrill to watch, and Fox’s 10 point game was a solid one. But Reifler being the lone Trojan to score in double figures points to a well-balanced attack that took a little bit of everything from everyone to get the job done.
“We lost so many players last year and have so many freshman on this team that work hard,” said Coach Sparacia. “Nobody really expected us to get to get this far…but the kids themselves did.”
Garden City play Harborfields in the Long Island Championship next Saturday, March 9
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