First place in Conference A-IV was on the line when the Island Trees Lady Dawgs (5-3, 8-6) took on the Mineola Lady Mustangs (7-1, 13-2), their self-proclaimed biggest rival, Friday evening .
The Mustangs' core roster towered over the more petite Lady Dawgs, and the disadvantage showed in some crucial blocks by Mineola from the get-go. Still, Island Trees proved in the first half that they were up for the challenge. The little ladies in white burst off the court cheering after both the first and second quarters, when thrilling three-point baskets at the buzzer left them on top. The first, by No. 43 Bridget Vilbig, broke a tie and made the score 15-12, and the second, by No. 2 Brianna Wilson, was the sharp shooter's second trey in a row, putting the score at 24-20.
"It was all about the energy," junior Kerri Medlock, said of the force that carried the Mustangs to the top. "There was so much energy from the very beginning."
Each team's basket was continuously met with points from the other side, and the score continued to fluctuate as the intensity rose, with multiple battles for the ball ending with girls on the floor. Island Trees played strong defense, but the Mustangs' fierce aggression and long, powerful passes were tough to beat.
"We tried to cover their big height advantage with the new uptempo game," said Island Trees coach Andy Schneider. "It worked well, but we went cold on offense in the third quarter for a few minutes and we just couldn't overcome it."
Kerri Medlock blew her team's offensive efforts out of the water with 23 points while her sister, senior Kalie, boxed out for rebounds with undeniable force.
"We played very good defense," said Kalie Medlock. "Everybody stuck with their man, and we just kept rebounding."
Wilson led the Lady Dawgs with 13 points, Maggie Milonakis, No. 11, scored 11 and Erin Carey, No. 10, added six while fighting hard on defense.
Island Trees was ahead 31-24 in the third, after Wilson and Milonakis teamed up on the front court. Kerri Medlock and forward Heather Gessner chipped away at the lead, however, until Mineola was back on top. Milonakis almost made Island Trees' buzzer luck a three-peat, but her last-second shot bounced off the rim and the third ended with Mineola ahead by one, 33-32.
As soon as the final quarter started, Carey charged her way towards the net and put Island Trees ahead once again. Kerri Medlock changed that with four successful free-throws after being fouled twice, and guard Krystie Kern added points for Mineola followed by another Medlock basket.
Wilson and Milonakis both made free-throws and Nicole Pellegrino, No. 3, hit a shot from beyond the arc as the seconds counted down, making the score 45-40, still in Mineola's favor.
The game ended with three rounds of foul shots, first for Kerri Medlock, then Milonakis followed by junior Julie Falotico for Mineola. When time ran out the Mustangs were the winners, holding onto sole possession of first place by a score of 49-41.
"[Mineola's] height and physical play just wore us down, and they adjusted and went man on us and we really didn't have an answer," Schneider said after the close loss. "I am very proud of my girls' effort though. They played their hearts out, we just came up short."
Mineola will , Feb. 8 at 4:30 p.m.1 2 3 4 F Mineola Lady Mustangs 12 8 13 16 49 Island Trees Lady Dawgs 15 9 8 9 41