By Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s girls’ basketball team trailed from the opening tipoff, and fell behind by as much as 11 points, but the Bulls were able to rally back against Lindenhurst in a nonleague contest that was decided in the final seconds of the game, when Smithtown East junior guard Haley Anderson nailed two free throws to break a tie with 14 seconds left to play to give her team a 52-50 edge.
Junior guard Victoria Redmond added two free throws to help her team to a 54-50 win Saturday.
Smithtown East, trailing by 10 to open the second half, rattled off three unanswered field goals to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four. Lindenhurst scored next to extend its lead to 40-34 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, and Smithtown East sophomore guard Ceili Williams hit her second three-pointer of the afternoon to again make it a four-point game, 41-37, to open the final quarter.
Having played the Bulldogs twice last season, Williams said her team spent a lot of time in practice preparing for the matchup.
“Our coaches prepared us — and our shots were on today,” Williams said, adding that that hasn’t been the case lately.
Both teams traded points at the free-throw line and Anderson swished both of her attempts to make it a three-point game, as the Bulls trimmed the deficit to 44-41.
Jordan DeBernardo had just one basket in the game, but it was a big one, as the junior guard drained a long distance trey to tie the game 44-44 with five minutes left to play.
“I thought we were prepared for them, but they really pushed us,” DeBernardo said. “Haley [Anderson] wasn’t playing in the beginning, but when she did come in, we played with more energy.”
Sophomore point guard Abby Zeitsiff answered next when her shot found the rim to put the Bulls out front for the first time, 49-48.
In a foul-riddled final two minutes of play, both teams tried to best each other at the free-throw line.
Redmond split the difference in her appearance at the charity stripe, and the Bulls edged ahead 50-48 with less than a minute left in regulation.
“We knew who their better players were and we worked in practice at stopping them,” Redmond said. With 27 seconds left, Lindenhurst went to the free-throw line and sank both to retie the game a 50-50, before the Bulls put the last four points on the scoreboard.
Anderson said her team had to key on Lindenhurst’s Alexis Perdue, but couldn’t contain her, as the senior point guard led the game in scoring with 27 points.
“They have a really good player in No. 12, she’s hard to guard,” Anderson said. “But we picked it up there in the second half and played really well.”
Redmond led her team in scoring with 16 points, followed by Williams with 13, Zeitsiff with 10 and Anderson with eight.
“We made a few adjustments at halftime — we tried to do a better job of slipping those screens and switching and not give them a wide open look,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We came out on them more in the second half.”
Smithtown East remains atop the League III leaderboard, tied with Riverhead, but that will change on Tuesday when the Bulls travel to take on the Blue Waves for the top spot. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.