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Athlete of the Week is Ward Melville girls basketball player Lauren Hansen

Ward Melville's Lauren Hansen against Commack on Friday,

Ward Melville's Lauren Hansen against Commack on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Lauren Hansen seems to have fully embraced being the leader of the Ward Melville girls basketball team, one of the top competitors for the Suffolk Class AA title.

The Auburn-bound senior has lit up opposing defenses, but that’s hardly unusual for the prolific shooter. She’s put an increased emphasis on defense, and that’s made her even more dynamic.

Hansen had 22 points and seven steals in a 79-35 win over Floyd on Jan. 7 and followed that with 19 points and five steals in a 67-53 win over Brentwood two days later. Against Commack on Jan. 11, she had 27 points and five assists in a 60-48 win.

For her efforts, she is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

“I definitely think that when you’re giving the game everything you can, I feel like your teammates will feed off of that,” Hansen said. “Especially being a point guard, when you play defense, everyone’s pumped.”

Defense was critical in her two previous games. On Jan. 4, she scored 27 of her 32 points in the first quarter in an 88-38 win over Central Islip thanks to easy transition buckets.

In a 69-65 win over Syosset in the Baldwin holiday tournament, Hansen dominated with 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals.

“I think that we’ve had great teams,” Hansen said. “But I think this is one of the hardest working teams and one of the most disciplined and motivated. Probably the most intense team.”

Some of that intensity comes from coach Samantha Prahalis, who Hansen credited for developing a team culture predicated on hard work. She said Prahalis has encouraged her to play tenacious defense, which Hansen thinks gives her more authority.

“You have to be able to do everything before you tell someone else to do it,” Hansen said of how she holds herself accountable.

Hansen has led Ward Melville to a 10-1 overall record. The Patriots’ only loss came on a buzzer-beating three-pointer against Longwood on Dec. 17.

“That game was kind of not our best showing,” Hansen said. “I feel like we didn’t play our best basketball. When we play our best basketball, we’re unstoppable.”

Speaking of unstoppable, Hansen has proven herself to be just that. She’s averaged 25.1 points per game while routinely assisting her teammates and sparking the team on defense. The 5-8 guard even hauled in 15 rebounds against St. Anthony's on Dec. 22.

Said Prahalis: “If she plays defense and plays a complete game like she did [against Commack], she’s the best player on Long Island.”

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