Friday, 08 January 2010 00:00
The annual tradition of Mineola High School basketball at Madison Square Garden continued recently when the Lady Mustangs took on the Lady Vikings of Port Washington following the Duke-Gonzaga men’s Aeropostale Classic on Dec. 19.
With a resurgent Mineola team challenging for the conference crown this season, the team and its fans were primed for victory in the World’s Most Famous Arena as inspiration for what hopes to be a historic run to the playoffs in February.
The Lady Mustangs took the hardwood against a young but challenging Port Washington squad in a nip and tuck battle. Senior captain Samantha Stavish opened the scoring with a 3-point field goal while the nerves of playing on the big stage nagged at the skills of both teams.
The defensive standoff featured solid rebounding from sophomores Erin Etherson and Kerri Medlock while shooting percentages were down in the early going.
Freshman point guard Julianne Falotico provided solid minutes in a critical late first, early second quarter segment running the offense with veteran confidence on the big floor when foul trouble plagued Mineola.
Late in the half, Port’s Emily Rosenthal gained the hot hand leading the Lady Vikings to a halftime lead that necessitated offensive adjustments by Lady Mustangs head coach Denise Zunno and assistant Noelle Warner.
With sportsmanship at play, the head coaches of both teams substituted liberally throughout the game with contributions coming from the entire rosters. For Mineola, juniors Bethanne Bartscherer and Kashanti Lawson saw valuable playing time and provided solid efforts on both ends of the floor. The senior Michelles, Morrison and Zubarriain, generated a bevy of hustle stats with critical boards, steals and baskets cutting the Lady Viking advantage to single digits. Junior Tracy Reardon, currently on the disabled list, kept the motivation flowing from the Mineola bench.
But on a night when the first snow of the year fell en masse on the metropolitan area, the Lady Mustangs created a blizzard of their own in the final four minutes of the contest.
Trailing 35-30 with the game on the line, Mineola scored the final 15 points to cement the victory and shut the door on the Lady Vikings with key starters leading the way.
The rally came from a variety of sources including juniors Heather Gessner and Krystie Kern, defending with ferocity. There were no bigger baskets than those from Kalie Medlock, Leandra Falotico and Stavish. Medlock converted three consecutive baskets inside the paint (en route to a game high 17) to close the gap to a meaningful margin.
The elder Falotico converted a traditional 3-point play to turn the game, giving the Lady Mustangs the lead for good. Stavish’s defensive stand in the final minute resulted in multiple thefts leading to layups and free throws, thwarting the attempts of Port Washington to recapture the game.
Mineola athletic director Ralph Amitrano was once again able to secure the court at MSG and provide this “once in a lifetime” opportunity to the Mustang hoopsters and their opponents. His tireless effort in securing this annual holiday venue does not go without thanks and appreciation. The support of the Mustang faithful, both students, family and friends alike, was stronger than ever with the student body loudly and proudly rooting on their athletes, undoubtedly assisting in the conquest.
This respectful schoolwide support resulted in the first Mustang victory at the Garden in recent memory. The effect of this success will ultimately translate to the regular conference season that has already begun in earnest.