A description of the Sachem East basketball team, perhaps, requires us to dust off the middle school science textbooks.
Controls and variables.
There are the constants for the Flaming Arrows: Kat Everson and Katie Doherty, All-Long Island stars who led this team to the state Class AA tournament last year and remain its stalwarts. They usually control the action.
And there are, of course, the unknowns: Sachem East graduated several key seniors and its roster now is comprised almost entirely of girls who had little or no playing time before this season. And that, certainly, becomes a variable.
In test subjects such as these, a required element is most often, eh-hem, chemistry.
Results of this project have yet to be determined -- they won't be until the playoffs -- but Friday revealed measurable growth as the Flaming Arrows topped Brentwood, 52-39, to take over first place in Suffolk League I.
"This wasn't just for the standings, but it helps our confidence going forward," Doherty said. "The new girls are improving and it showed, and that'll be really important for us."
Doherty did her usual -- 23 points, seven assists and four steals. And, sans her typical offensive output, so did Everson with seven points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and inside-outside defense. But what tipped the scales was the contributions of Danielle Cosgrove, Jordan Pamlanye and Gabby Aspuru -- a triple-beam balance of sorts.
Cosgrove, a 5-11 eighth-grader, had eight points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in what coach Matt Brisson called "her biggest game ever." Pamlanye added 10 points and forced several turnovers. Aspuru's athleticism and range at 6-feet helped the perimeter defense. The inexperienced players have become more calm as the season progressed, Brisson said, and gradually infused themselves into the offense.
"The little things are big," Cosgrove said of herself and the other youngsters providing intangibles -- boxing out, setting screens, etc. And there "definitely is some pressure" she said of being relied upon by a team seeking to defend its L.I. title, "but we're getting more comfortable with each other and that takes some of the pressure off. You can just go out and play."
That they did. Sachem East (9-1) came from behind and used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take the lead. Doherty's three-pointer put them up 17-16 with 4:31 left in the first half. Cosgrove nailed a midrange jumper to make it 25-16, and Pamlanye's layup pushed the lead to 11 a minute before halftime. Several of the Arrows' baskets came via fast break, initiated by turnovers and long outlet passes.
"We're quicker this year and have a lot of athleticism," Doherty said, "so we've tried to push the tempo more and take advantage of that."
Alexia Douglas scored 12 points, and Natasha Almonacy and Destiny Brown each had seven for Brentwood (8-2).
Kallie Jones' two three-pointers helped spark an Indians rally in the third and they pulled within 34-30 late in the quarter, but Brentwood would draw no closer. Sachem East answered with an 8-0 run, capped by Taylor Whiffen's layup with 6:34 remaining in the fourth.
"It's different from last year and it's an adjustment with all the new girls," Everson said, "but each person adds something to the mix. As they're getting more games under their belt and we get used to each other, we're definitely getting better as a team."
See. They've got it down to a science.