By Marc Silvestrini
EAST HAMPTON – Friday night’s Shoreline Conference girls title game, in which East Hampton defeated Morgan 50-43, had just about everything you could ever want in a championship tilt.
Ebbs and flows, ups and downs, a few brilliant plays here, a few costly errors there, great plays from expected sources and surprising heroics from unexpected places.
But in the end, the Bellringers won the Shoreline crown for the second consecutive year because they had just enough depth to overcome the loss of one of their best players, Angela Mercaldi, to an ACL injury in the last game of the regular season and some early foul trouble that sent another of its best players, Hannah Barrientos, to the bench for long stretches of the second and third quarters.
The victory capped an undefeated season for the Bellringers, who finished 15-0, having won 28 in a row and 38 of 39 over the past two years. Morgan finished at 11-4.
“They did a great job of staying in their offense and going to the basket while we didn’t create as well as we wanted to and didn’t shoot the ball very well,” said Morgan coach Caitlin Woods. “We did get some momentum going in the second quarter, but we just couldn’t hold onto it.”
The Bellringers got huge games from seniors Meryl Curtin, Danielle Adams and Mya Field.
Curtin hit four clutch 3-pointers at critical times; Adams was a force on the boards and on defense while chipping in with 13 points; and Field, who seemed to have the ball in her hands all night long, showed a virtuoso floor game also played excellent man-to-man defense on Morgan’s Catie Donadio, the league’s most dynamic offensive player.
Barrientos, meanwhile, came off the bench in the fourth quarter to score three straight East Hampton baskets in the last four minutes to help seal the win.
“I’m so happy to be ending this season on such a high note,” Field said. “I’m also pretty happy with how I handled the ball tonight. It’s nice to know that the coaches and the team trusted me with the ball, especially with Angela not being able to play.”
Curtin led all scorers on the night with a 15-point effort, while Adams finished with 13, Field tossed in 11 and Barrientos had nine. Sophomore Katie Martin had 12 for the Huskies, Donadio chipped in with 11 and freshman Ava Johnson scored nine.
“Without Angela, I just knew I had to step it up tonight,” Curtin said. “We’ve fought so hard just to get to this position, I didn’t want to let anybody down.”
After Martin opened the scoring with a layup off a feed from Donadio, Adams scored four points and Curtin and Barrientos hit long threes to key a 15-2 Bellringer run over the final six and a half minutes of the quarter to stake East Hampton to 15-4 lead.
A pair of Madison Yorker free throws stretched East Hampton’s lead to 17-4 early in the second quarter, but Donadio had three points and a pretty assist on a Martin bucket and Caeley Ayer buried a 3-pointer to key an 8-0 Huskies run that brought the visitors back to within five, at 17-12, midway through the period.
Curtin, however, responded with a pair of threes to enable East Hampton to build its lead to seven, 24-17, at halftime.
A Curtin free throw and a deep three by Adams early in the third quarter helped the Bellringers stretch their lead to 28-17, but Donadio and Martin triggered a 9-2 Morgan spurt that cut the deficit to 30-26 with just over three minutes to go in the quarter.
Johnson then hit a pair of threes, one from each corner, in the quarter’s final minute to help the Huskies close to within 34-32 entering the final eight minutes of play.
“Morgan presents you with a lot of problems because you have to have a player and a half on Donadio at all times, yet you can’t overplay her because she’ll find other guys and dish the ball off to them for open looks,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “Because of that, I thought we played a very focused, very smart game on defense. We played them about as well as I could have expected.”
Field converted a feed from Adams into a driving layup early in the final quarter, but Alex Kelly put home a rebound to bring the Huskies right back to within two with just over seven minutes to play. Curtin then swished another three to give the Bellringers some breathing room at 39-34, but Kelly followed yet another Huskies miss to make it a three-point game, 39-36, with 6:42 to play.
From there, a conventional three-point play by Adams, a drive by Field and two straight buckets by Barrientos helped the Bellringers complete a 9-1 spurt, which ballooned their lead to 48-37 with just over four minutes to play. The teams then traded baskets until Martin scored the game’s final four points over the last 29 seconds setting the final score at 50-43.
Russell called a timeout with 6.6 seconds to play to enable Mercaldi to inbound the ball and actually play in the championship game she was so instrumental in helping her team reach.
“These five have had a tremendous impact on the program,” the coach said of his seniors. “My pride in them and the way they do things is as high as it could be.”
When asked how difficult it is to view the future of the program knowing that none of the five will be there next year, Russell said he tries to keep a favorite adage in mind.
“Don’t cry because it’s over,” he said. “Smile because it happened.”
Catie Donadio 2 7 11, Caeley Ayer 2 0 5, Katie Martin 5 2 12, Sofie Passante 0 0 0, Alex Kelly 2 0 6, Ava Johnson 3 0 9. Totals: 14 9 43.
EAST HAMPTON (15-0)
Meryl Curtin 5 1 15, Mya Field 3 5 11, Hannah Barrientos 4 0 9, Danielle Adams 4 3 13, Madison Yorker 1 0 2, Delaney Russell 0 0 0, Jackie Russell 0 0 0, Angela Mercaldi 0 0 0. Totals: 17 9 50.
Score By Quarters
M 4 13 15 11–43
EH 15 9 10 16–50
3-Pointers: M–Johnson 3, Kelly 2, Ayer 1; EH–Curtin 4, Adams 2, Barrientos 1.