All Lauren Hansen needs is an inch to make a defense pay.

Ward Melville’s sophomore sharpshooter isn’t just a threat from the corner. Her ballhandling and quick release allow her to shoot off the dribble, in transition and with a hand in her face from anywhere behind the three-point line.

She showed the ability to do all three in last night’s 66-54 win over host Sachem East in a Suffolk I girls basketball game, scoring 23 points and shooting 5-for-13 from three-point range.

“That’s probably my favorite part of the game, when someone has a hand in your face and you still make the shot,” said Hansen, who also had six assists. “I work a lot on that, so in the game it’s just comfortable.”

The 5-5 guard sat out all of last season after ankle surgery but has made her presence felt this season, scoring 22.1 points per game and making 45 shots from beyond the arc.

Her final three-pointer with 4:11 left in the game extended the Patriots’ lead to 54-50. Hannah Lorenzen (17 points, 12 rebounds) followed that with a three of her own and Taylor Tripptree (16 points, 12 rebounds) then hit consecutive free throws to put distance between Ward Melville (7-1) and Sachem East (4-4).

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Three-point shooting has been a strength for Ward Melville this season. Entering last night, the Patriots had scored 46.9 percent of their season point total on threes (345 of 736 points).

They hit nine more against Sachem East, spread between four players. “It’s more of a natural strength for us. Since we don’t have much height, we’ve always focused on shooting,” Tripptree said. “It’s mostly natural, but we work on it a lot during practice.”

Because Ward Melville’s tallest player stands 5-10, defending 6-4 Sachem East center Danielle Cosgrove was a recent focus at practice. Tremendous help in the paint limited Cosgrove’s impact on the game. She had 15 points but would have had the opportunity for more had it not been for the swarming defense.

The Patriots, who defeated Sachem East, 62-48, on Dec. 20, also beat the Flaming Arrows twice in the 2015-16 regular season before falling to them in the quarterfinals.

Tripptree and Hansen agreed that this team is poised to avoid a similar fate, and with Hansen back in the fold and among Suffolk’s top scorers, the Patriots are hoping for a playoff run.

If teams give her an inch, she could carry them to a Suffolk Class AA title.