Truly, it’s a game of inches—and a heartbreaker.
When Carle Place eighth-grader Erin Leary sank a long corner jumper from the 3-point line as the final buzzer sounded, pandemonium broke out at the Clark Athletic Center at SUNY Old Westbury on March 6.
It seemed that the Frogs had sent the Long Island Class B championship game against Mattituck into overtime. Down 48-45 with 1.8 seconds left, the home team executed an inbound play to spring Leary open for her shot. Only problem was, her front foot was several inches over the line.
The officials signaled a 2-point score, and joy turned to tears on the Carle Place side while it was the turn of the Mattituck players to celebrate.
It was the second straight loss to the Suffolk County champs for the Frogs, who have won the Nassau County B crown three straight years.
“Her foot was on the line. It was definitely a 2-pointer,” said Carle Place (14-9) coach Mike Bello, who lost two starters from last year’s team. “I couldn’t ask for more out of the girls. I told them to hold their heads high.”
Mattituck (20-3) coach Steve Van Dood noted that both teams were young, “and there were a lot of jitters early on. We had eight turnovers in the first quarter.”
A number of the turnovers led to Carle Place scores, and midway though the first quarter, the Frogs enjoyed their biggest lead of the game, 14-8.
What Van Dood called a switch in his defensive alignment paid dividends, with the Tuckers running off seven unanswered points to take the lead and close out the rather sloppy first half ahead 19-16.
Mattituk took control in the third, surging to an eight-point advantage, and ended the quarter ahead 34-29.
The drama increased in the final stanza, as the Frogs slowly pulled even and there were three ties and four lead changes leading to the heart-pounding finale.
“I thought we outplayed them in the fourth quarter,” asserted Bello.
Summing up the season, Bello said of his young charges, “They played like seasoned players all year long.”
Leah Burden (16) and Giana McKeough (12) led the Frogs, whose starting five are all underclassmen.