TROY, N.Y. - Kristen Doherty's 31 points Friday night and her 2,226 career points demonstrate that the Sachem East guard is a prolific scorer. But the attribute that really shows her impact is her defense.
The Boston College-bound Doherty had 12 steals, including four in the final 4:30 with the game in the balance, and scored 13 fourth-quarter points to lead Sachem East to a 57-48 win over Mount Vernon in a state Class AA girls basketball semifinal at Hudson Valley CC.
Sachem East (21-3) - which outscored Mount Vernon 15-4 down the stretch to erase a two-point deficit - will play Clifton Park Shenendehowa for the state title at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
"It's a lot more than points to me," said Doherty, who scored 23 second-half points in moving into eighth place on Long Island's all-time girls basketball scoring list. "I feel if you play defense and work hard, your shots will fall if you're a scorer. Defense is a strong point that we focus on and that's the most important thing on this team."
Doherty shot 12-for-32 from the field, including 0-for-7 from three-point range. She uncharacteristically shot 7-for-14 from the foul line.
"I cannot explain how frustrated I was," she said. "This was the worst shooting game I think I ever had, but everyone else stepped up. I don't think I missed that many foul shots in one game. Once it's in your head, it's hard for a shooter to get that out. I just had to relax."
Sachem East led 39-30 late in the third quarter after Kelsey Ferguson assisted Doherty for a fast-break layup. But Meagan Doherty, Kristen's younger sister, picked up her fourth foul with 6:51 left in the game, and Kristen Doherty, Caitlin Hopkins and Stephanie Burrow each had three fouls for Sachem East.
Lubirdia Gordon scored on a putback with 5:28 left to give Mount Vernon a 44-42 lead. That's when Doherty took over. She went 3-for-4 from the foul line as the Flaming Arrows took a 45-44 lead. She scored on a drive, got a steal and fed Hopkins for a layup, and got another steal that led to her runner in the lane for a 51-44 lead with 2:30 left. And she sealed it with a three-point play with 32 seconds left, capping the scoring.
While Kristen Doherty struggled in the first half, Meagan Doherty had seven of her 12 points and Hopkins had eight of her 12 before halftime. Ferguson didn't score, but she had four assists and three steals and has been a key cog in the defense.
"The great thing about Kristen is she knows she has teammates that can help pick her up," Ferguson said. "Most games last year we would win on Kristen's shoulders. We haven't done that this year."
And when they have needed Doherty to carry the team, she has. "She was pressing somewhat," Sachem East coach Matt Brisson said, "but her maturity level has grown so much that she was able to get it under control and she stepped up and made some big plays."