The Carle Place girls basketball team prides itself on its defensive effort, but it was equal parts offense and defense that carried the Frogs to an insurmountable first-half lead in Wednesday night’s Long Island Class B championship game.
Erin Leary scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter, and Giana McKeough scored all 12 of her points in the first half, as Carle Place rolled to a 66-25 win over Mattituck at Farmingdale State.
Now, the Frogs turn their attention to Irvington, who they’ll play in a state regional final at Pace on Saturday at 3 p.m. Carle Place lost to Irvington in last year’s regional final, 60-37. Irvington finished as the state Class B runner-up.
“We have more of an idea of what’s coming for us this time,” said Leary, who added seven rebounds and three steals against Mattituck (17-6). “We know what we need to do. Defense, that’s our main goal.”
Defense influenced the early scoring for Carle Place (16-4), which turned a 2-2 tie into a 20-6 lead as Leary scored 14 points during the team’s 18-4 first-quarter run.
McKeough had six steals as she pressured Mattituck’s ballhandlers and jumped passing lanes to get the Frogs running in transition. Her three-pointer started the scoring in the second quarter, and after Ashley Perkins’ layup got Mattituck within 23-9, Carle Place scored the final 23 points of the quarter.
“We prepared so hard for this game for the last week,” McKeough said.
Preparation helped, as did converting on open looks. Carle Place shot 19-for-37 from the field in the first half, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Caitlin Leary, Erin’s seventh-grade sister, added 10 points, while Amanda Leary, Erin’s ninth-grade sister, had six points.
Defense fuels everything Carle Place does, and coach Tim O’Hagan said his defense-first philosophy is what will help against Irvington.
“There’s no excuse not to play good defense,” O’Hagan said. “If you play good defense, you’ll always be in the game. No matter what game it is, no matter what venue. If you play good D, you’ll be around.
Carle Place pressures ballhandlers and clogs the middle, forcing teams into low-percentage jump shots. That will be the strategy against Irvington, but the Bulldogs showed patience against the Frogs last year by assisting 22 of 25 baskets.
Said O’Hagan: “This week we’ll have to be spot-on because they have a couple kids who can really play.”