The Syosset High School varsity girls basketball team had a phenomenal regular season as they went 20-0, which led the team to the Nassau County Class AA finals.
Unfortunately, the Braves, for the second year in a row, lost the title bout to the Baldwin Bruins, 60-52.
On Feb. 19, they defeated Port Washington High School, 73-28, advancing to the semifinals, defeating Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK. The Braves beat the No. 4 ranked, Hawks, 60-43, en route to the final matchup.
Syosset, ranked No. 1, has been there before. They were defeated by the Bruins in that game a year ago.
Head coach Michael Ferreira saw a grit throughout the past several months that allowed the team to be so successful this season.
“It started a year ago after we had a tough loss in the county finals,” Ferreira said. “This team’s commitment to just keep working during the offseason. They worked all spring, summer and fall. Their work mentality that they bring every day to practice of just trying to get better and taking each day at a time is paying off come game day.”
The team fought until the very end of each game, with their margin of victory exceeding 10 points in all but three games this past season.
While their motivation came from their previous season’s loss, Ferreira still had to adjust his coaching style this year.
“I think what I’ve learned most, especially with this group, is that we treat each group differently,” Ferreira said. “We have a big senior class on this team, which has allowed us to push our practices to become tougher, higher tempo and higher energy. The coaching staff’s energy at practice allows us to really get the most out of this group.”
Defense was a big part of this team’s success as they believed in their ability to “turn defense into offense,” as Ferreira put it.
It’s been the Braves’ focus of this season to not necessarily look to hit the nice jump shots, but look at ways to be aggressive.
“We get our girls to buy into team defense,” the coach said. “It’s not pretty and you won’t read about that in the paper and it won’t show up in the statistics, but it’s important to us. I think that mentality really translates to the offensive end of the court.”
“We don’t have one player on offense that will take over a game,” Ferreira said. “We got five girls on the court and every single one of them is capable of putting the ball through the hoop, making the extra pass and finding the open teammate. They just play incredibly unselfishly.”
That ability for players to step up each and every night was huge for a team not looking to find one player to give the ball to on a nightly basis.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of our starters and bench,” Ferreira said. “It puts a lot of pressure on our opponents. You really have to pick your poison with this team and every night someone else is going to step up. We even have some girls that come off the bench and contribute huge minutes. So you may not see that offensively with the points margin, but we just see a defensive team playing unselfishly, making the extra play or fighting for loose balls.”
Syosset has done this in the past as well, but there’s something a little bit different about this year’s team as compared to others, Caroline Ruggiero, who averaged 15.4 points per game this season, explained.
“I think we definitely pass the ball really well and we try to transition a lot,” Ruggiero said. “I think we’re athletic and fast enough. We’re more athletic and fast than the past three years.”
There’s something else that made this team so great this year, though, and it’s not something that meets the eyes of spectators, necessarily.
“Our chemistry is amazing,” Lilah Grubman, who averaged 13.1 points, said. “We know our roles and we’re good with them, so we know what to do in basically every situation we’re put in. We’re really fast and athletic so that also helps a lot.”
Charlotte Twohig, who scored 8.0 points on average, echoed that notion.
“We have talented girls and we’re all unselfish,” Twohig said. “We all have great chemistry on the court.”
The Syosset Braves have built a foundation for future success under coach Ferreira with a system focused on old-school, aggressive defense over running up the score on their opponents.