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Lady Dalers Topple Baldwin in Quarters, 49-48

Senior guard Nadine Hadnagy had been here twice before, but it never ended well. Her scrappy, defensive minded Farmingdale Lady Dalers squad was pitted against an equal in the Baldwin Lady Bruins in the playoffs for the third consecutive time. The Dalers' nemesis sent them home in close games both times, and this time they were in front of a rowdy Baldwin crowd and in another nailbiter. A third heartbreaker may have been too much to bear, but Hadnagy didn't panic. Instead, she meticulously, yet coolly advanced the ball, killed a bit of clock, sized up the defense and went for a bold floater off the glass with 26 seconds left to secure seventh seeded Farmingdale a 49-48 upset over second seeded Baldwin in the Nassau AA quarterfinals. She and her teammates live to play another day. Finally.

"I'm not sure how Nadine does what she does," said Farmingdale Head Coach Pete Cerrone. "But in games like these, it's all about instincts."

And "games like these" describe any Baldwin-Farmingdale showdown. Both teams set the tone early via their trademarks: ferocious defense.

What lacked offensively early on was reciprocated with pure hustle. Baldwin and Farmingdale's vaunted stopper tactics negated each other - the first team to get hot would simply have the scoreboard advantage. And the Lady Dalers drew first blood. It started with a trey from Lauren Hill to create a 10-6 lead, then forward Courtney Irby converted off quality passes into the paint to protect the advantage. But it was Hadnagy's five consecutive points that gave Farmingdale a 17-10 lead, and they'd maintain a slight advantage through the second quarter. The defensive grit and valiant play in the post from Irby and Baldwin's Chelsea May (8 points) helped keep things closely-knit, but when advantages came, they came via guard play. Senior shooting guard Alexis Panariello put points on the board for Farmingdale from both the stripe and the field, while Tiara Place did the same for the Lady Bruins, eventually scoring inside at the buzzer to knot the affair at 26 at the half. Neither team would lead by more than six points for the rest of the game.

"This was just 32 minutes of relentless play," said Coach Cerrone, who reached a coaching milestone with his 500th career win earlier this month. "[Baldwin Head Coach] Tom Catapano is one of the best coaches on Long Island and both teams played unbelievably hard. We could take this game and go on tour."

The three ties and four lead changes in the third quarter were the proof - neither team gave the other much slack. Tyra Harrison (who scored a team high 16 points) began to carry Baldwin on her shoulders, going perfect from the stripe and converting from the floor throughout the third quarter. But the tandem of Panariello and Hadnagy answered every call with a big shot. Numerous turnovers and travel calls prevented  Farmingdale from seizing a lead, but every mistake was answered with brilliance. Irby was whistled for traveling three times, but her presence on the glass made all the difference against a bigger Baldwin unit. 

"Courtney got some really big rebounds for us and came up huge in the paint," said Coach Cerrone of Irby, who scored 12 points and grabbed 15 boards. "So you take the good with the mistakes."

Farmingdale eventually went up six points, 47-41, on a tough move in the paint from Amanda Hausmann, but a program like Baldwin doesn't just disappear during crunch time. A Harrison bucket and a huge trey from Mariah Butler (9 points) with 3:06 left made it a 47-46 game. But for the remaining 2:40, defense was the name of the game and the tenacity of it showed when the realization that someone would have to lose set in. 

"This was the most important game of our season," said Panariello, who scored 12 points. "We knew it would be close and realized this could be our last game as seniors."

But someone would have to score. Farmingdale to protect their lead or Baldwin to take it away. After Irby secured a huge rebound and earned the Dalers a possession, Hadnagy had the answer.

"I knew their wasn't much time left in the game and Baldwin's a good team - you can't give them time to score," said Hadnagy, who scored a game high 18 points. "So I wanted to use some time, then I just went to my go to move. It goes in most of the time, and it went in."

Baldwin had a few chances to redeem, namely a three from Butler that just missed the mark and a missed free throw from Hadnagy that Baldwin was able to advance. But the desperation shot for the win fell short. 

Farmingdale will Face Uniondale, who they split with during the regular season, in the semi-finals at Garden City HS next Wednesday at 7PM. Coach Cerrone predicts another one not suitable for the faint of heart. 

"That game against Uniondale will be just like this one was."


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