Central Islip had gotten used to airtight finishes over its first 10 times out on the court.
The Musketeers won four times by six points or less. But they also lost three times by five points or less. Only two wins and one loss had larger margins.
But they came out in the second half of Monday’s Suffolk I home game against Sachem North and gave themselves some room to play with this time, slicing open a three-point game. The Musketeers went up by 13 after three and inflated the cushion to 20 in the fourth before emerging with a 64-55 win.
"We know we’re a team that can beat anybody," coach Matt Candemeres said. "But we also know we’re a team that can lose to anybody."
They’re a team that’s 7-4 overall and 2-4 in the league. Rahleek Murray likes the potential.
"We pay attention a lot [to Candemeres], and we play a lot of defense," the sophomore said.
They have balance, too. Murray paced them with 14 points. Tashawn Bumpers scored 12. And Zy’Mel Murray, Rahleek’s brother, had 11. All three are guards.
"It’s hard for teams to press up on us," Candemeres said. "We have multiple guards who can go by you. If we get in the paint with our bigs, we’re as dangerous as anybody, especially if our guys are hitting shots from the outside."
It was 26-23 Musketeers at halftime. Rahleek Murray then hit a three and drove for two in a 12-5 burst, giving them a 10-point lead.
Central Islip outscored Sachem North 22-12 in the third to make it 48-35. Rahleek Murray, Bumpers and Jaiden Butts had five points apiece; Shakeen Legette had four; and Ro’Sean Knowles-Bryant had three.
"The guys came out with a ton of energy and executed better than us in the second half," Sachem North coach Tommy Mullee said.
When Legette hit a fast-break layup, the lead swelled to 60-40.
Chris Lally helped make the final more respectable by erupting for 16 of his 19 in the fourth for Sachem North (5-5, 3-3), which hurt its cause throughout at the line, going just 13-for-29.
"We really love our guys," Mullee said. "We’ve got to tweak a couple of things. Got to be able to step to the foul line and consistently make foul shots. … It wasn’t pretty."