TROY — The Waterloo girls basketball team made the seemingly impossible look easy.
The Tigers thoroughly dominated the second half of their New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B semifinal Friday morning at Hudson Valley Community College.
Just as it had in its previous three games, Waterloo trailed at halftime before producing yet another stellar third-quarter effort that has marked its 2023 postseason run. The Tigers’ latest post-halftime surge resulted in a 73-50 victory over Cortland of Section III.
Waterloo (25-1) managed 28 points in the first half but erupted for 20, to just six for Cortland, in the first four minutes after intermission.
“It was our quarter once again,” Waterloo head coach Michael Bree said about the third. “I thought the first half was what we’ve been going through here lately. We’re missing shots, we’re not forcing turnovers, we just didn’t play a clean half of basketball.”
Now, the Tigers have a chance to win the program’s first state title in their fifth trip to the final. They take on downstate power Putnam Valley at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
“In the second half, they came out ... really, it comes down to our older girls that said, ‘We’re not done yet,’” Bree continued. “They put those runs together and we made enough shots in the second half to pull it out.”
Senior guard Natalie DiSanto knocked down three 3-pointers in those opening four minutes of the second half, part of her 15-point output.
“We had to keep our composure,” DiSanto said about her team going into the second half. “We had to get (rid of) the nerves in the first half, and we knew we had to come out and play our game, not go out there nervous, hit our shots, and take the lead.”
DiSanto’s classmates, who have been playing together on the varsity level for the last four years, also aided the momentum swing.
Jazzmyn Lewis followed DiSanto’s third 3 with a floater in the paint, and Morgan Caraballo engineered a personal 5-0 spurt after that with a pair of free throws and 3-pointer from the left wing.
“It’s been an advantage with being here before, but we really put in the hard work — the hours that we’re in the gym, the hours outside together as a team,” DiSanto said. “It’s all paid off.”
The only thing that did not go Waterloo’s way in the third was Caraballo’s long 3-pointer in front of her own bench coming a tad after the buzzer sounded. Nonetheless, the Tigers outscored Cortland 30-8 in the quarter for a 58-37 advantage.
Caraballo finished with a game-high 18 points. Lewis chipped in 15. Freshman Addison Bree finished with 14 points after burying four of her seven 3-point attempts.
“It’s a different mentality the way we play on offense,” Coach Bree said about the difference from this year’s state final team compared to the one in 2022. “There is a flow in terms of shooting quickly and trying to score quickly.
“We shoot a ton of 3s. We know we have to hit shots to be competitive, and it’s been good for us.”
Last year, the Tigers’ now-elite senior class fell one game short of hoisting the championship trophy. This time around, they will attempt to do what four previous Waterloo squads could not: Win a state title.
“If they want to end it the right way, we have to play better than we did today,” Bree said. “We’re going to get a good practice in and see what we’re going to do (Saturday).”
“It would be amazing,” DiSanto added on what it would mean to win it all. “We’re pretty excited.”