Kristen Doherty returns to LI with Boston College to face Hofstra

Former Sachem East star Kristen Doherty competes in

Former Sachem East star Kristen Doherty competes in the state Class AA tournament. (Credit: Pat Orr)

On Tuesday afternoon, Kristen Doherty will awaken from her nap, call her dad before the pregame shootaround, eat a peanut butter sandwich and put her hair in a ponytail. Later she will adjust it. Then, inevitably, readjust it.

That's the routine.

She'll tinker with the hairstyle, perhaps, even more often than usual, her sister Meagan joked, "because she's going to be more excited than usual."

That's because Doherty, for the first time in more than three years, will be playing basketball on Long Island when her Boston College team faces Hofstra.

What will be a road game for the Eagles is a homecoming for Doherty, the Sachem East icon.

"I'd be lying if I say that I haven't thought about it a lot," Kristen said. "I've been getting texts from so many people already. I can't wait."

Neither can her family and friends, many of whom haven't seen her play in person since 2010 in high school.

The Holtsville product returns as the Eagles' leader, their top scorer at 12.3 points per game last season, and the point guard and senior captain this season. She also is within 28 points of 1,000 for her career after scoring 16 Saturday in the Eagles' season-opening 83-71 loss to Stanford.

"Winning is the primary focus," said Doherty, 21, "but it would be incredible to reach that milestone in front of my family."

A large Doherty contingent is expected at Mack Sports Complex, including her parents, Thomas and Teresa, and her grandmother Joan. Kristen also is honoring her 100-year-old great-grandfather, Frank King, who is ailing.

Doherty played in AAU games at Hofstra but never in scholastic competition, she said. Still, many of the spectators in attendance Tuesday will have vivid memories of her high school exploits.

Doherty's 2,277 points rank seventh in Long Island history. There also was the slick ballhandling and passing ability as a 5-11 guard, the smooth pull-up jumper and her defensive instincts. Oh, and of course, the superstar's superstitions.

"I still start every game with my hair in a ponytail," Doherty said with a chuckle. "And if things aren't going well, I'll put it up in a bun, then switch back and forth throughout. That hasn't changed."

Her averages of 27.1 points, 5.6 steals and 3.8 assists in five varsity seasons ensured that the long locks were safe. She was a three-time Newsday All-Long Island selection and earned All-American honors as a senior after leading Sachem East to the state Class AA title.

"She's up near the top with the best players I've seen," said Matt Brisson, her high school coach. "She's far and away the most intelligent kid I've ever coached. She excelled in categories outside of the boxscore -- intense, a natural leader, impervious to pressure."

Doherty last played on Long Island at Farmingdale State on March 12, 2010, when she scored 28 points against Baldwin to lead the Flaming Arrows to the Long Island Class AA championship.

The Doherty basketball legacy carries on at Sachem East, added to most recently by Meagan and cousin Katie Doherty, both former All-Long Islanders. Meagan now is a sophomore at Quinnipiac and Katie, a 12th-grader, led the Arrows to an LI title last season.

"I constantly brag about ," Meagan Doherty said. "As her sister, I'd love to see her have one of those huge offensive games like in high school, but her role is different now. Still, she's so cerebral and such a strong defender, it's impressive."

Doherty had "ups and downs" as Boston College struggled in her first two seasons , but she enjoyed a breakthrough junior year in which she led the Eagles to the ACC quarterfinals.

"I don't get nervous before games, but I haven't been this anxious in a long time," Kristen Doherty said. "I'll probably have some jitters, but it'll be exciting."

Hair-raising, even.

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