Italee Brown-Smikle was one of the new pieces of the puzzle.
But at first, the pieces weren't fitting together. During an open gym a few weeks before the start of the season, the returning members of the Islip girls basketball team stood on one side of the court, the new players stood on the other.
"It was a little crazy at first," returning starter Taryn Ohlmiller said of the team's chemistry. "But we've gotten to know everybody better . . . and we have more talent than we've ever had."
All of the pieces certainly fell into place Tuesday as Islip defeated two-time defending Long Island champion Harborfields, 65-58.
"This means a lot, more than people think," Brown-Smikle said. "It's like a championship game for us."
The Buccaneers added three new starters to a playoff team that graduated just one. Brown-Smikle and Alyssa Murphy, who played varsity at Islip in seventh and eighth grade, transferred back from Upper Room. Julia Hande, who averaged 14 points a game as a freshman, returned after sitting out her sophomore season to focus on volleyball.
They joined an already talented team. So figuring out how to solve them defensively has been . . . well, puzzling.
Brown-Smikle scored 17 points, including the 1,000th of her five-year career, and grabbed 14 rebounds. Hande had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ohlmiller added 16 points.
Brown-Smikle delivered a cross-court pass to Murphy (nine points), who drained a three that capped a 12-2 run to end the third quarter and opened a 52-39 lead. Brown-Smikle opened the fourth with a corner three and later hit a runner that gave Islip its largest lead at 61-42 with just over five minutes left.
Donasja Scott had 18 points and 18 rebounds for Harborfields (2-1). Allie Tunick -- who had 26 points, including five three-pointers -- converted two layups off steals and then drained a three to highlight a 12-2 run that cut the deficit to 63-56 with 2:05 left. But Ohlmiller found a cutting Brown-Smikle for a layup that helped seal the win.
Islip coach Dave Goodman said the Buccaneers (3-0) snapped a 14-game losing streak to Harborfields, which hadn't lost a league game the past two seasons.
"We've been wanting this win for years and we finally got it," Hande said. "We have incredible talent and anything can happen this year."
Brown-Smikle, a junior forward who hit a jumper from the elbow in the second for her 1,000th career point, praised her new teammates after the game.
"You can go down the bench and everybody can make an impact," she said. "We've been able to put it all together."
Like a puzzle.