Sachem East beats Whitman in Class AA semifinal

Sammy Drake of Sachem East splits two Walt

Sammy Drake of Sachem East splits two Walt Whitman defenders for the basket. (Feb. 23, 2013) (Credit: George A. Faella)

The pressure was on for Sammy Drake -- the clock ticking and her future somewhat dependent on her performance at that moment.

The Sachem East senior was really being tested.

No, really. Drake was in Fairfield, Conn. on Saturday morning to take the ACT. Good thing for the Flaming Arrows, she was able to drive to St. Joseph's College in time to help them pass another test.

Led by Sammy Drake and her twin, Allie, No. 2 Sachem East pulled off a roaring comeback to beat No. 3 Whitman, 38-23, in the Suffolk Class AA semifinal.

Within that score was a 28-0 run that turned a "frustrating" 11-point deficit into a decisive victory for the Flaming Arrows. "I don't think we've ever had a run like that," Sammy Drake said. "That's a pretty impressive feat."

As was her afternoon. Drake took the exam, drove two hours to Patchogue, and eventually scored the go-ahead basket with 4:57 left in the third quarter.

Allie Drake had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, and Sammy added six points, 10 rebounds and five steals for Sachem East (18-2), which will make its fifth appearance in the finals in six years. The Flaming Arrows will play North Babylon at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ward Melville.

Chyna Jones' jumper with 4:39 left in the second put Whitman up 19-8. But Sachem East's stifling defense held the Wildcats scoreless until Kelly Bilodeau (nine points) hit a jumper with 4:58 remaining in the fourth.

"When we have trouble scoring, we have to make stops," Arrows coach Matt Brisson said. "We just had to run some different sets on offense to get better looks and hold them where they were."

The game's turning point -- and it was a subtle one -- was Emily Carmel drawing a charge with four minutes left in the second quarter, which disrupted Whitman's momentum. "That was the first thing that went right in a while," she said, "and it got our fans back into it and picked our energy up."

Kathleen Everson followed with a layup, sparking the run. From there, the turnovers mounted for Whitman (16-2). Sammy Drake's off-balance hook shot gave the Arrows their first lead at 20-19.

"A lot of it was nerves early on," Katie Doherty said of Sachem East's slow start. "Once we got settled, we turned it on."

Doherty had 10 points and five assists, and Everson nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks for Sachem East. The Flaming Arrows planned to celebrate the win with "a sleepover at Christina Schretzman's house," Allie Drake said. "She's been our friend since preschool."

Essence Casey scored all five of her points early as Whitman took a 5-0 lead, but the star guard picked up two quick fouls and sat most of the first half. Not that it affected the Wildcats much then -- Katira Jemmott's two three-pointers keyed their 10-0 run in the second quarter.

Snowstorm cancellations cost Sammy Drake the opportunity to take the ACT earlier, and the next round of exams in New York will be in the spring, she said. Fearing a deadline on her college application, she made the trip to Connecticut.

So, Sammy, which test was more difficult? "Having to come from behind in the game," she said. "I didn't sweat during the ACT."

Now she and her teammates can begin studying for the final.

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