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Garden City tops Lynbrook, 41-36
Jay Mumford

It was something Lynbrook senior guard Brooke Gerstman had done so many times before, in this game and throughout her high school career - come down the court (or off a pick) and hit a step back three in her defender’s face. But this time, the shot (which happened to be the last of her career) didn’t go down. Seven seconds later, the Garden City Trojans’ ticket to defend their county title was stamped. Garden City Head Coach, Anthony Sparacia, could live with the risk of Gerstman’s shot falling, as long as this team kept the talented scorer out of the paint and off the free throw line.

“Her step back is almost impossible to defend,” Coach Sparacia said. “But I’d rather make her beat us from the perimeter. She’s a tremendous player and we couldn’t let her beat us from the line and with [dribble penetration].”

The Trojans’ plan worked. Although Gerstman kept her Lynbrook Owls afloat with an assortment of trademark step back treys, it wasn’t enough to stop Garden City. After all, they have weapons, too - a lot of them. Early on, it was senior paint patroller, Chistina Mangels.

“Christina is a beast in the paint,” said Coach Sparacia. “She does everything. I don’t have the stats, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she had 20 rebounds tonight.”

[Note: Mangels scored 8 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.]

Lynbrook Head Coach Heather Manikas agrees: “They killed us on the boards. I give all the credit in the world to Mangels and the freshman.”

That freshman would be none other than the Trojans’ young sniper, Samantha Auricchio. With Gerstman overcoming limited action (due to foul trouble) and shooting struggles early on to pull the Owls back in the game with her firepower, Garden City needed an equalizer, their own outside threat. With all eyes on Mangels, Auricchio lit up the perimeter for a team high 11 points.

“[Garden City senior guard] Kim Ryan is an excellent shooter, but she wasn’t knocking down shots tonight,” said Coach Sparacia. “But Samantha was.”

With Lynbrook hanging on 17-15 at halftime, Auricchio’s back to back threes gave the Trojans some space. Then Gerstman began to percolate. When the picks were set, two fourth quarter threes were swished and the Owls were back on the Trojans’ heels. Gerstman’s deadly step back isn’t something you’d typically allow, but cutting off the paint and the free throw line shrunk the overall likelihood of a Lynbrook sneak attack.

“With Brooke on the floor, no lead is safe,” said Coach Sparacia. “But [senior guard] Jess Stein was great in defending her. Even our bench was screaming out when the screens were coming.”

All of the above point to what could be the Trojans’ greatest asset. “Our biggest thing is our balance.”

The balance showed in the stats. The Trojans saw six of their players score in the second half, while Gerstman shouldered the brunt of the scoring for the Owls - she scored 14 of Lynbrook’s 21 second half points and finished with a game high 19.

“She’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” said Coach Manikas, as she watched her point guard’s sterling career come to a close. “She played with confidence, but was such a classy kid.”

For Garden City, though, the quest goes on - North Shore awaits on Saturday at C.W. Post. How will the Trojans prepare for their title defense?

“We’re going to bring in our boys team and practice against them to simulate [North Shore’s] speed,” said Coach Sparacia with a laugh. “This team doesn’t like to lose, so we’ll keep preparing and working hard.”

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