Back-to-back baskets by sophomore Cassidy Newman late in the second quarter extended the Spartans’ lead to 27-15. Newman scored on a putback and then received a hit-ahead pass from Mannina and scored in transition with 40 seconds left in the first half.
“It’s always nice to have somebody come off the bench and give you points and production,” Bonczkowski said of Newman, who scored eight points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor. “For her to come in and get us points and offensive rebounds and play good solid defense and get some defensive rebounds was a big plus for us.”
Mannina capped the half by hitting a three-pointer off the dribble from right of the key five seconds before halftime.
“We got a lot of open looks,” Mannina said. “It was good we made most of them. I’m usually not the best shooter, but I kept shooting and I made them.”
Mannina stepped in front of a driving Drummond with 5:42 left in the third quarter to draw the Harpursville senior’s fourth foul. Drummond wouldn’t return until 5:50 remained in the fourth quarter.
But with Savannah Murray scoring six of her team-high 20 points in the third quarter, Harpursville trimmed its deficit to 43-32 entering the fourth quarter.
The Hornets switched to a 2-3 zone for most of the second half. Mannina and Manzanero hit three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Manzanero’s came with 4:25 left and extended Unatego’s lead to 51-40.
The Spartans still led, 53-42, when Manzanero hit a runner in the lane with 2:55 to play.
But shaky free throw shooting down the stretch allowed Harpursville to make it interesting.
The Hornets had a chance to make it a one-possession game when Marci Ritter stepped to the line with 16 seconds left. Ritter hit the first and missed the second to make it 54-50.
Talbot then missed the front end of a one-and-one for Unatego with 14 seconds left.
But Murray missed a runner in the lane with eight seconds left and Mannina dribbled out the remaining time.
“It’s definitely a good thing to be in the championship,” Mannina said.
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.