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Wantagh gears up for title drive

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Wantagh girls’ basketball has passed nearly all the tests in its quest for a return to the championship stage.

The Class A reigning runner ups kicked off the second half of the league schedule last Saturday following a six-day break for midterms with 71-58 home win against North Shore to improve to 7-1 in Conference A-IV and 12-1 overall. Longtime Wantagh head coach Stan Bujacich said the early season success is a testament to the team’s drive that began after last year’s county finals loss to Sewanhaka.

“We have a really strong senior class and they have been the key,” Bujacich said. “Everyone is getting the most out of their abilities.”

After a sluggish start to Saturday game, Wantagh found its rhythm in the second quarter with a 15-3 run. Seniors Julia Wilkinson and Morgan Flaherty led the offense with 27 and 18 points, respectively. Senior forward Jenna Kaufmann also had a big day recording a double-double on 11 points and 11 rebounds.

“We were a little off in the first quarter and then they came alive,” Bujacich said. “They threw everything at us and the kids responded.”

Wilkinson, Flaherty and Kauffmann have provided invaluable leadership along with fellow senior captain, Ally Vaccaro. The latter has been out with an injury most of the season, but still attends every practice and game.

The North Shore game exuded the balanced offensive production Wantagh has received led by Wilkinson averaging 16.5 points per game and shooting nearly 40% from three-point range. The versatile Flaherty, who can play in the backcourt or paint, entered the week averaging 13 points per game and has become a long-range weapon while playing at the guard position of late.

Junior forward Lauren Goldberg, a transfer from Our Lady of Mercy, is averaging a double-double so far this season at 11 points and 12.5 rebound a game. Goldberg, who played on Wantagh’s junior varsity team as an eighth grader, played her freshman season at St. Dominic’s.

“She has acclimated very well,” Bujacich said of Goldberg. “It isn’t easy to have four coaches in four years.”

Sophomore guard Madison Taylor has stepped up in her second varsity season averaging eight points a game and nine rebounds. Taylor has been sidelined lately by injury and Bujacich hoped she will be back healthy for the upcoming Class A playoffs.

Unbeaten Floral Park handed Wantagh its only loss of the season by a 57-49 score on Jan. 15, which gives the Knights an inside track toward capturing the conference championship. The team will meet in a rematch at Floral Park in the second-to -last regular season game on Feb. 7.

Following a Jan. 28 Bethpage, Wantagh will host Lawrence Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Lynbrook Monday for a 6:15 p.m. tipoff. The Warriors then conclude the regular season with three straight road games at Plainedge, Floral Park and Valley Stream North.

“We are probably in the toughest Class A league in Nassau and maybe Long Island,” Bujacich said. “It’s very physical and talented.”