By Mike Zacchio
GARDEN CITY — Hamilton earned its first berth in the state final four by topping Section 8’s Friends Academy 59-25 in a Class C state regional final at Adelphi University Saturday afternoon.
Tiffany Corselli paced the Red Raiders with 32 points, six steals and five rebounds. Jasmine Robinson added 21 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
The offensive output was reassuring for the Red Raiders, who survived the regional semifinals on Wednesday with a 27-14 win over Tuxedo.
“We missed tons of shots (against Tuxedo),” Corselli recalled. “We went 12-for-62, so when you go 12-for-62, it’s kind of hard to have a lot of points at the end of the game.”
A much different Hamilton team was on display Saturday.
“We came out more relaxed and focused, and we executed,” Corselli said.
Hamilton scored its highest point total since a 69-62 win over Horace Greeley on Feb. 1.
The Red Raiders were just as effective on defense, forcing 18 steals against Friends Academy, and holding them to just three points in the final quarter.
“That’s what we’re all about — defense, and that’s what I preach and teach,” Hamilton coach Benjamin Carter said. “They bought into it, and I think it kind of wears teams down.”
Hamilton has rebounded nicely, literally, since losing senior Maia Hood to a torn ACL.
Without its top rebounder in Hood, the Hamilton defense still managed to grab 40 rebounds Saturday, including 10 off the bench from junior Mikayla Brown.
“Last year, we felt that we deserved to go farther,” Brown said. “This year, we’re actually proving to people that we deserve it.”
The Red Raiders (18-4) got off to a slow start. But following a timeout from Carter, the team went on a 12-0 run over the next four minutes.
“No team is really going to be able to handle our defense,” Carter said. “I’m proud of my defense.”
In four postseason games this season, Hamilton hallowed an average of just 27.5 points per game.
Hamilton will play Harpursville of Section 4 at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy at 4:30 p.m. on March 16 in the state semifinals.
The six seniors — including Corselli, Robinson and Hood — on the 10-player roster know that their opportunity is now.
“This is as far as I’ve ever gotten in my whole high school (career),” said Corselli, a Sacred Heart transfer. “For us to keep going, it would be great to go out with a bang.”