Gabrielle Zaffiro is never afraid to take her shot. She just enjoys it more when the ball goes in the hoop.
Zaffiro’s shot was on the mark on Saturday afternoon as the North Shore standout led the Vikings to a 62-32 victory over Floral Park in the second annual Coaches vs. Cancer event at Floral Park High School.
The senior notched her second double-digit scoring performance of the young season in the non-league matchup, racking up 29 points, including 16 in the first quarter, 11 rebounds and 10 steals.
“We came out hard from the beginning,” Zaffiro said. “That’s what we emphasize as a team, always coming out hard and with intensity, so that’s how we wanted to play today and it worked for us. My teammates were able to move the ball around well and find me.”
North Shore (2-0) jumped out to an early lead as Zaffiro drained bucket after bucket, scoring her team’s first 11 points. It was more than enough to set the tone of the game and, most importantly, a bit of a confidence boost for the senior early in the year.
“She hasn’t really shot the ball well, even in practice, so the first quarter today is really how she shoots the ball,” said North Shore coach Keith Freund. “It was good to see that.”
Floral Park (2-2) did its best to fight back throughout the first half, but the Knights struggled to find a rhythm against North Shore’s tough, full-court pressure.
The Vikings gave up just 11 first-quarter points, forcing a dozen turnovers in the opening 16 minutes of play and, by halftime, North Shore was nursing a 12-point cushion.
“We really just always work together on defense and we’ve really been clicking,” said sophomore guard Jennifer Walton. “We always want to push hard and keep our hands up and feet moving. I think that’s what brought it all to the next level.”
Floral Park made a handful of halftime adjustments, looking to slow down Zaffiro, but North Shore didn’t bat a single eyelash.
The Vikings, simply, spread the ball out, and, by the final whistle, seven different players put points on the board.
“It’s a great feeling,” Freund said. “I told the girls at the start of the year, I never make cuts, we’ve got ten girls and all of you are going to play. I’ve always had great teams, but this is the best team attitude I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
North Shore’s offense continued to find the hoop throughout the second half, but it was the Vikings defense that, truly, put the game away.
The squad held Floral Park to just two points in the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 11-to-2 in the frame. The Vikings switched up their defense, falling into a man-to-man set and crashing the boards, keeping Floral Park from grabbing any sort of momentum.
“The goal wasn’t to hold to them to two points or anything, but since our defense is so fast paced and hectic, we were able to do that,” Zaffiro said. “We have a lot of really good athletes on our team, a lot of really good players, so that’s why we’re able to be so strong defensively.”
It’s still early and there’s still plenty of basketball to be played, but after a pair of convincing victories to start the season, North Shore is nothing short of confident.
This is a team with its sights on a title and these first few games are the stepping stones for another run.
“It really says that, I think, we’re going to go far,” Walton said. “I want to go far and I think how we’re doing now, we can pull out some wins and play really well together.”