Anhya Jenkins remembers her first two varsity seasons with the Central Islip girls basketball team, and not in a good way.
“We would get blown out,” the senior said. “We got our butts kicked.”
How bad? Jenkins and her fellow seniors had a combined record of 9-26 in their first two varsity seasons. Even though the Musketeers went 16-3 last season, a first-round playoff loss left a bitter taste.
No wonder the Musketeers were all smiles Saturday. Senior Chanel Taylor had 23 points and Jenkins added 22 points and 10 rebounds as No. 3 Central Islip defeated No. 7 Half Hollow Hills West, 63-53, in a Suffolk Class AA semifinal at Stony Brook University.
Central Islip (21-2) will meet two-time defending champion Commack in the title game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Stony Brook.
“We just wanted this more,” said Jenkins, who had eight fourth-quarter points. “We went through so many years of losing — we went through so much — but we worked so hard.”
They worked especially hard after Hills West (18-5) took its last lead of the game at 49-48 on a basket by Jada Cooper with 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Musketeers scored 13 straight points — seven by Taylor and six by Jenkins — and went ahead 61-49 with less than a minute left.
Hills West’s Tori Harris hit a putback with 31.5 seconds to go and sank two free throws to make it 61-53 with 20.9 seconds left, but Taylor closed the game with a pair of free throws.
Naabea Assibey-Bonsu added 12 points, five rebounds and five assists for Central Islip.
Harris closed her high school career with 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. She had 17 points in the first half as Hills West took a 30-28 lead.
“I don’t think we realized how good [Harris] was,” Taylor said. “At halftime we knew. She was really good.”
But the Musketeers switched from a man-to-man defense to a 3-2 zone, which gave the Colts and Harris trouble. She did not score in the third quarter.
Samantha Hinkle added 11 points and six rebounds for Hills West.
The Musketeers now will prepare for Thursday’s championship game and a chance for Central Islip’s first girls basketball title since 1960.
“We needed to take this home,” Jenkins said. “I’m so happy. This is our time now.”
And a chance to make some great memories.