In basketball, the dominance of one player can lead a team to new heights of success.
In the case of the Floral Park Lady Knights, their “three-headed monster,” as head coach Michael Spina refers to them as, have led the team to a 14-0 record and a chance for a county championship.
Spina has been coaching varsity sports in Nassau County for 34 years.
With experience in football, basketball, baseball, and softball, there is very little he hasn’t seen. Now in his 10th year as the Lady Knights head coach, Spina said this team is like none other he’s had the privilege to coach.
“Their team chemistry is off the charts,” Spina said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “I’ve coached some great teams and players in the past, but what I see with these girls this year is something totally new to me.”
Out of the eight conferences in Nassau County, the Lady Knights are one of three undefeated teams remaining. While Spina said he and the team have no plans to lose a game anytime soon, finishing the regular season with no losses is not the goal.
“No coach or player that I know ever wants to lose any game in any sport,” Spina chuckled. “But our immediate goal is to win a conference championship and to get a top three or four seed in the county playoffs. That all leads to the ultimate goal of winning a county and state title. But we don’t think that far ahead.”
Spina said the team likes taking each game at face value, and tries not to think too much in advance. He admitted it sounds cliché, but noted that when teams start to think too far ahead, the small miscues made can turn into bigger issues down the line.
“Everyone says it, but it really is true,” he said. “In my opinion, the immediate goal should be to just win your next game. We have some tough opponents down the stretch to close out the season, but each one deserves that respect of making sure we take care of business against them first.”
It’s natural to think that a 14-0 team would have rigorous practices, grueling workouts, and little time for recreation. However, the Lady Knights have flipped that narrative and have unconventional ways to begin their practices.
“We have this thing called ‘wacky time’, which allows them to get loose before we start the workouts,” Spina said. “They dance, make their Tik Tok videos, and just bond. Then when the workouts begin, they’ve got their fun out of the way, and are ready to go to work.”
Spina touted the depth of the team, especially from a youth standpoint. The Lady Knights have three seniors, two of which who start. While plenty of options are available, Spina said that it all starts with his “three-headed monster” consisting of a freshman, sophomore, and senior.
“First, there’s Maya Bateau,” he said. “She’s a 5’10″ freshman, hasn’t fully grown into that body yet, but we call her ‘Ms. No-No’ because she averages so many blocks per game. Then, we have Erin Harkins. 5’5″ sophomore, total sharpshooter. She’s our leading three-point scorer and can play the point need be. And then there’s Jaeda Delsoin. She’s our senior guard, 5’5,” and easily had the biggest growth I’ve seen from any player in 34 years of coaching sports. She sets the tempo, made amazing strides in her shooting this year, and is an all-around stud.”
Spina said he feels confident in his team against others due to the multiple options. Even if the first three were to somehow be neutralized, sophomores and juniors can come off the bench and score at will.
Sitting atop the conference and still undefeated, Spina said that he and his team do not feel the pressure the way most others do.
“I told the girls, wait until you have a family, a mortgage, and bills to pay, then you’ll know what true pressure is,” he said. “I always tell them that these years are some of the best you will ever have, so enjoy them and always have fun.”