It was a regular-season victory but a somewhat irregular postgame celebration.
After Commack's 39-32 win over Sachem East Friday night, the girls basketball team celebrated on its home court as if it had just won a playoff game instead of merely taking over first place in Suffolk I. "For us seniors, this was so big," said Samantha Lane, one of seven 12th graders. "We had never beaten Sachem East before."
Lane scored 10 points and sophomore Chelsea Schultz had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Commack (10-1, 7-1 in league). Katie Doherty's 12 points led Sachem East (9-2, 6-1).
"I felt like we were playing for the seniors," said sophomore Erin Storck, who contributed seven points and four steals and sparked a defense that held Sachem East to six, six and eight points in the final three quarters. "We wanted to keep high pressure and force turnovers. Our defense builds energy for the whole team."
Twice Sachem East almost overtook Commack in the second half, and both times it was Schultz to the rescue.
After Sachem East reduced its deficit to 25-24 late in the third quarter, Schultz nailed a corner three, then grabbed a rebound in traffic and flipped in an acrobatic one-hander that beat the buzzer. "I knew we had to score fast, so I hustled for the rebound," Schultz said. "It was nice that it went in."
In the fourth quarter, Doherty grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a layup that brought Sachem East to within 32-30 with 5:51 left. But Schultz scored inside and then, after Commack forced a turnover, took a long pass from senior point guard Kerry Haller (seven rebounds, five assists) and dropped in a more conventional layup that made it 36-30 with 4:08 left.
Furious defense forced both teams to miss shots down the stretch and Sachem East never got closer. End-game strategy and determination was a point of emphasis for Commack, which surrendered a lead in the final two minutes in losing to Sachem East, 41-38, on Dec. 14, its only loss of the season.
"We remembered," Schultz said. "We didn't want it to happen again."