Sofia Vasselman of Commack dribbles down court during a Suffolk...

Sofia Vasselman of Commack dribbles down court during a Suffolk girls basketball game against West Babylon on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 in West Babylon. Credit: Dawn McCormick

The Commack girls basketball team wants to challenge itself as much as possible — and there’s nothing like putting a defending Long Island champion on your schedule to see how you fare.

Commack defeated host West Babylon, 51-44, in non-league girls basketball action Tuesday afternoon. Both teams faced their share of obstacles in the contest with Commack missing seven players being honored for winning the Suffolk Class AA championship at the girls volleyball awards dinner. West Babylon, the defending Long Island Class A champions, was without All-Long Island selection Lacey Downey, who missed the game with a hamstring injury.

“This gets us ready for the league season and shows us what to prepare for and where our strengths and weaknesses are,” guard Sofia Vasselman said. “We knew this was going to be a tough team to play so we wanted to work harder than them because we know they are very hard workers. And I think we executed on our end.”

Vasselman led Commack with 15 points after being called upon to take on an even larger role than normal. The starting guard was crucial late in the contest when Fiona Kernaghan, who had 15 points in the first half and is committed to play at Molloy, sustained a knee injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return to the contest.

“I was super impressed with the way the girls came out,” coach Dave Moran said. “Some girls earned some big minutes, played some great defense in the first half and that’s one of the best programs in the county over there.”

Kernaghan was pivotal to Commack’s strong start, scoring eight points in the first quarter as the Cougars opened the contest on a 16-2 run.

“Fiona’s experience was just incredible,” Moran said. “She really settles the team down. With us having a couple new starters today, she was really able to do what she does, which is take control. She has all the tools.”

Commack (2-0) opened a 43-24 lead with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter before West Babylon (2-1) stormed back.

Rebecca Vitale scored 13 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter with her fourth three-pointer of the period coming with 16.6 seconds left in the contest for the eventual final points of the game. West Babylon outscored Commack, 20-12, in the fourth quarter.

“You have to expect it,” Moran said. “They are one of the best programs in the state so no lead is too much for that team. They made a run, we expected it.”

Vasselman, who made three three-pointers in the third quarter, was proud of how the team stuck together and finished the game, even without Kernaghan on the floor.

“She’s a huge asset to this team,” Vasselman said. “When that happens, other players and our bench really need to step up. I think we did a pretty good job at that, but we need to keep getting better.”

Commack went 16-6 and lost in the Suffolk Class AA quarterfinals last season. The Cougars hope a challenging non-league and scrimmage schedule can help them go even further.

“I don’t want to play anyone that’s not the best,” Moran said. “I want them ready because this is going to be a heck of a run. Whitman, Northport, Smithtown, there’s so many good teams in our league you don’t want to get caught sleeping.”

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