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Long Island high school girls are piling up the three-pointers

"For me, I believe the three-pointer is the slam dunk of girls basketball," North Shore coach Keith Freund said.

Ward Melville's Lauren Hansen is the top three-point

Ward Melville's Lauren Hansen is the top three-point shooter in Long Island girls basketball.  Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

There are few more exciting plays than a well-timed three-pointer.

“For me, I believe the three-pointer is the slam dunk of girls basketball,” North Shore coach Keith Freund said. “Nothing incites the crowd in Long Island girls basketball like a three-pointer.”

Three-point shooting is no longer a novelty in basketball, and the Long Island girls hoops scene is no exception. Teams have gravitated towards an up-tempo style with a high volume of shots from deep for several reasons.

As the girls’ game has gotten faster and more athletic, more shooters have emerged. Most teams now have a multitude of options from beyond the arc, a testament to how the game has evolved. The NBA’s emphasis on shooting has impacted the sport, as has the tendency for girls basketball coaches to utilize a zone defense. The way many teams beat zones is by shooting.

A three-pointer can be the ultimate momentum-shifter, deflating the other team and kickstarting a run.

These are three of the best sharpshooters around.

LAUREN HANSEN, Ward Melville

Nobody’s better off the dribble than Hansen.

“Catching it and shooting it, everyone kind of learns that, but doing it off the dribble, it’s tough,” Patriots coach Samantha Prahalis said. “You need so much hand-eye coordination. You need the timing, the separation and space, the handle.”

Hansen, an Auburn commit with a Long Island-best 65 three-pointers, is one of the Island’s hardest to contain. With too much space, she’ll shoot from anywhere. If guarded too closely, she’ll cross past defenders and drive. The threat of a deep shot sets up her whole arsenal, which has led her to 27.6 points per game through Thursday — Long Island’s top mark.

“It’s imperative to the rest of her skill set,” Prahalis said.

A mechanically sound shooter, Hansen always has the confidence to pull, even during rare dry spells. “If she’s feeling she can make it, I believe she can make it,” Prahalis said. “I trust her, and I have faith in her shot.”

Hansen always has the green light. Coaches and defenders alike have yet to stop her, and even a well-defended possession can end in Hansen converting from distance.

“It almost makes the defense want to cry,” Prahalis said. “That’s what we want.”

SYDNEY TAYLOR, St. Anthony’s

Taylor is always ready to load and shoot from nearly anywhere inside halfcourt.

“She gets a quick step on people, and sometimes she’s so far out that people don’t even go near her,” said Friars coach Hugh Flaherty, who added her range is from 25 feet away.

The UMass Amherst commit is one of the more well-rounded offensive talents around and is averaging 18.6 points per game through Thursday. At 5-9, she’s a ball-handler and passer who can also bump bodies inside. Her jumper is perhaps the most lethal part of her arsenal.

Ironically, Flaherty said her shot doesn’t appear automatic. She gets little rotation and shoots with a high arc, and she’s so quick on the catch-and-shoot that she can appear rushed. But Taylor has such a good feel for the rhythm of shooting that she’s efficient.

“She may hit five threes in a game on 10, 12 shots,” Flaherty said. “That gets us 15 points right away. I think she’s really hard to guard because of her size, and she’s so strong.”

Flaherty said he rarely calls plays to get Taylor open. She’s creative enough with the ball to create her own look against any defense.

JENNY WALTON, North Shore

This junior lefty puts in the time to make sure her shot is always pure.

North Shore coach Keith Freund said Walton, who has a Nassau-best 56 three-pointers and is averaging 18 points per game through Thursday, is a “gym rat.” She’ll stay after practice at least twice per week to take as many as 200 more jumpers with a heavy focus on adjusting to the critiques of her coaches.

With the departure of Gabby Zaffiro, Long Island’s No. 2 all-time scorer who now plays for Division III powerhouse Amherst, Walton became the default go-to scorer, and Freund said she’s even exceeded his expectations.

So much of that comes from her three-point shot with almost limitless range — despite getting little lift off the floor.

“It’s not about how much height she gets on her feet, but it’s about the follow-through being high and out,” Freund said. “When she follows through high, she gets lift on her shot.”

On Dec. 17, Walton drained eight treys and broke Zaffiro’s single-game program record of seven. “Any time you break a Gabby Zaffiro record, that’s a pretty big deal,” Freund said.

Walton can pull-up from the left or right and is comfortable driving to the basket from either side. She’s an all-around scorer, but her bread and butter is the long ball.

Sharpshooters to watch: Alyssa Adomaites (Glenn), Jamie Behar (Oceanside), Mariah Benavides (Baldwin); Bre Cohn (Ward Melville), Jaaliyah Ervin (Wyandanch), Gigi Faison (Elmont), Beth Felix (Stony Brook), Trinity Hudson (Glen Cove), Katie Kelly (Commack), Emma Lange (Sachem East), Juliet McCarthy (East Rockaway), Samantha Muller (North Babylon), Riley Rottkamp (Our Lady of Mercy), Jade Stoler (Jericho).

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