Guard Laila Carr said, “I could think two steps ahead...

Guard Laila Carr said, “I could think two steps ahead and I could get that steal.” She had five in the game on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

For Half Hollow Hills West girls basketball, Laila Carr runs the show.

She leads a stout defense, often finding her way into passing lanes, and she’s the primary ballhandler on offense, directing her teammates and even suggesting play calls to coach Bryan Dugan. Yet, she’s only a freshman.

“It’s a big responsibility, but I believe I can handle it,” Carr said. “From watching the senior leadership from last year, they rubbed a lot off on me. I just think ahead and be a leader.”

Carr scored a game-high 15 points and had four assists and five steals to lead Half Hollow Hills West (7-4) to a 43-21 home win over Hauppauge (5-6) in Suffolk III.

The freshman guard picked apart the defense, finding her way into the paint for layups in the half court as well as being the beneficiary of Jahniya McCreary’s passes on the break. McCreary added 10 points, and Laila Mustafic had eight points.

Half Hollow Hills West beat Hauppauge, 57-27, on the road to begin the Suffolk III season, but Dugan told his team to not expect the same outcome again.

The Eagles kept it close this time, only trailing 16-10 at halftime. However, the Colts’ full court and half court pressure led to steal after steal, slowly increasing the deficit.

Hauppauge had a short bench because of a few injuries, so Dugan wanted to play fast to force turnovers and tire the Eagles out. Carr played a significant role in that, causing havoc in the passing lanes.

“You got to really pay attention to their eyes,” Carr said. “When we’re [defending] an out of bounds [play], I always look at them because their eyes anticipate where they’re going to pass the ball. I could think two steps ahead and I could get that steal.”

Carr is also a few steps ahead on offense, too. She recognizes which plays would work best against a set defense as well as where her teammates should be. She wants to optimize the team’s offensive output and get her teammates easy chances.

Dugan recognizes the difficulty of leading a team, especially as an underclassmen, but he has the utmost confidence in Carr now and going forward.

“She comes in as an eighth grader and has the ability to play right away,” Dugan said. “She’s handled it maturely, and her leadership skills are exemplary … I told her that the other day that it’s her team. It’s her team now if she wants it, and it’s going to be her team in the future.”

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