Cara McCormack wanted to make something happen.
After watching her team struggle to find its offensive footing early in Tuesday’s non-league matchup against Sachem East, the St. John the Baptist senior point guard decided to take matters into her own hands; literally.
With 4:36 left in the third quarter, and her team trailing by one, McCormack picked off a pass, sprinting the length of the court for the basket and the foul. She sank the ensuing free throw, giving the Cougars a lead they would never surrender en route to a 60-45 victory.
“I knew we could play better, so I wanted to make a statement,” said McCormack, who finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “We had to play with effort and a steal is an effort kind of play.”
McCormack was the spark that made St. John the Baptist (3-0) go all game, draining jumpers, including six from behind the arc, but coach Kate Gordon said it was her ability to set up her teammates and penetrate Sachem East’s zone that made the difference.
“We know what [McCormack is] going to give us on the offensive side,” Gordon said. “When she can do things and be creative and crafty, help her teammates make easy baskets, we’re a better basketball team.”
McCormack echoed the sentiment, adding that St. John the Baptist wanted to “make the defense move.
“Everybody got open shots and we had to move the ball,” McCormack said. “Take what the defense gives you. That’s what we did.”
St. John the Baptist, down two at halftime, settled into its game plan coming out of the break, opening the third quarter on a 10-4 run. Jen Gaffney scored five of her seven points in the stretch as the Cougars turned defense into offense, getting the ball out in transition and keeping Sachem East (2-2) from finding the hoop.
The Flaming Arrows were led by Ashley Pavan, who finished with 20 points, but was held to seven in the second half. St. John the Baptist allowed just six points in the fourth quarter.
“The main thing was we couldn’t let [Sachem East] get easy looks,” Gordon said. “When we let them set screens and move and motion, they were executing. We needed to speed them up.”
It was a confidence-boosting win for the Cougars, who return 12 players from last season’s CHSAA Class A finalist team, and one they hope will help set them up for a deep playoff run this season.
“It shows that we’ve grown, and we can handle pressure,” McCormack said. “We know we’re mentally tough and come back and win.”