There wasn't much talk about Commack as a top-eight team in Suffolk Class AA before the season. Now, many girls basketball coaches are saying to watch out for the Cougars.
Commack (5-1, 2-1 League I) actually opened eyes in its lone loss back in December. Commack had a lead in the final two minutes against Sachem East, one of the preseason favorites, before falling 41-38.
"That's a spot Sachem East is used to being in and we weren't," Commack coach Denis Conroy said. "We will learn from it. I was happy with the effort. We defended well."
Commack's reputation is being a good defensive team. The difference this season is the improvement on offense. The Cougars are averaging 52.8 points per game and have won by an average of 26 points.
"Ten points in a quarter was cause for a celebration last season," Conroy said. "That is now a down quarter."
Conroy said he expected Commack to be good, but wasn't sure how quickly it would happen since the team is young. The leading scorers are sophomores Erin Storck and Chelsea Schultz with 10 points per game. Seniors Samantha Lane, Kerry Haller and Melissa Lobaccaro provide the leadership for the younger players as Commack has two freshmen and an eighth-grader coming off the bench.
"We're a young team and before anyone talks about you, you need to show it," Conroy said. "We haven't done it before."
Baldwin still at top
Baldwin showed in its biggest test of the season it won't go away easily. The Bruins defeated North Babylon, a team with two Division I prospects, 52-46, on Dec. 28.
"We're young and inexperienced," coach Tom Catapano said. "They had a great offseason and buy into the program. They take pride in keeping the tradition going."
Catapano has helped build that tradition. He has guided the team to three consecutive Nassau Class AA titles, a state semifinal appearance and done it without a Division I player.
Junior Mariah Butler has helped lead the way for Baldwin (5-1, 4-0 Conference II) and is one of the more experienced players. Ashley McAdams is one of two seniors and Catapano thought she might never playing again after tearing her left ACL as a freshman and her right ACL as a sophomore.
Sophomore guard Jade Aponte is the Bruins' best shooter and sophomore Tiara Place and junior Tyra Harrison have also played key roles.
Baldwin is known for its aggressive defense and it's no different this season.
"They have been responding very well," Catapano said. "I am happy with their progress."