An offensive juggernaut was the only obstacle between the Commack girls basketball team and a second straight appearance in the Suffolk Class AA final.
No Suffolk team averaged more than Kings Park’s 69.5 points per game this season.
Good thing Commack values defense.
In the end, the defense was the key on Sunday. The No. 2 Cougars defeated the No. 3 Kingsmen, 58-44, at Stony Brook University to earn a Wednesday date with No. 8 Sachem East and a shot at consecutive titles.
“We have to take pride in our defense,” senior captain Sam Miller said. “I don’t know if a lot of teams practice defense as much as us.”
Jackie DelliSanti scored 22 points for Commack, Leanne Corso had 13 and Casey Hearns added 10.
Kings Park’s Sam Schultz scored 17 points.
Commack, which ranked fifth in Suffolk with 37.9 points allowed per game, recorded 11 steals. When Kings Park trimmed what had been a 12-point Commack lead to 44-38 entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars (19-2) dug in defensively and held the Kingsmen (18-3) to six points in the final eight minutes.
“I think it’s just the ability to turn it up when it’s an important time, an important game,” said Miller, who scored nine points. “Defense always travels. Sometimes you’re in a different gym and you’re not going to shoot as well, but you can always play defense.”
Aside from a nine-point fourth quarter, Commack did not have much trouble scoring. The Cougars opened with a 6-0 run in the first two minutes and took a 35-23 lead into halftime.
But it was the defense that tired out the Kingsmen and forced them into flat shots, especially in the fourth quarter.
“We just had to keep them from scoring as much as they normally do,” DelliSanti said, “and we thought we had a good shot in this game.”