Layla Mendoza is taking nothing but positives from a 72-45 loss to Northport in the Section XI overall title game Thursday.
“We learn from a loss. We go back and fix the problems,” Mendoza said. “I feel like we did well overall playing with a big school, and we have a strong team that will only continue growing stronger.”
Although wishing she’d contributed more in the first half, the senior forward finished the evening with a team-high 17 points — scoring 13 of them in the final two frames — grabbed three big rebounds, and made a block. Mendoza capped the third, which Westhampton (22-3) trailed 36-16 entering, racking up eight of 10 straight Hurricane points to close the gap back to 20 points, 51-31. She sank two free-throws after a field goal at the three-minute mark before sophomore guard Olivia Rongo’s bucket off a Belle Smith (seven points, two steals) assist. That’s also when Mendoza got to work on the boards and pulled down two rebounds in a 30-second span, both of which she converted for points on the other end.
“I feel I could have been more active out there in the first half,” she said. “But the second half we really picked it up on defense and were getting steals and rebounds, got more aggressive.”
The senior secured 10 points in the third, and Caroline Henke added three. Sophomore guard Molly McCarthy, who scored seven points by driving the baseline for big finishes and hitting a 3-pointer in the first quarter, collected four rebounds and stole the ball twice. Rongo, who added six points, also grabbed four rebounds.
Northport (22-2) started with a 13-1 run to set the tone, jumping out to a 17-10 lead after the first quarter. Danielle Pavinelli (19 points), Sophia Yearwood (13 points), and Kerry Dennin (13 points) proved tough to contain. A total of five Tigers scored from three-point range. Sophia Bica (11 points, three trifectas), Tess Maline, and Dennin each swished shots from beyond the arc in just over a minute to help make up an 11-2 run that put Northport out front 29-14 with just over three minutes until halftime.
“Northport is really good with moving the ball around and getting threes,” Mendoza said. “Our game plan was just to contest them as much as we can knowing how many great shooters they have.”
Yearwood and Pavinelli’s threes (each hit three) were broken up by Mendoza’s other bucket in the third to extend the Tigers’ advantage to 47-19 before Henke scored at the 3:52 mark. Kelly McLaughlin racked up 10 points off field goals for Northport, which earned its first overall title since 2006.
“I thought we did a lot of really positive things against a powerhouse like Northport as we move toward the Long Island championship,” head coach Katie Peters said.
Westhampton will face the Nassau County Class A champion in the regional final at St. Joseph’s College March 15 at 1:30 PM.
“We’ll work on fouling and just our fundamentals in general,” Mendoza said. “We need to box out correctly and move our feet more on defense, but we’ll be ready.”