Every good act needs an impressive opening and a strong finish.
The Commack girls basketball team pretty much had that covered Saturday, thanks to starter Kim Shalhoub and closer Jillian Spagnuola.
Shalhoub, a junior who hit five three-pointers, had 13 of her 19 points in the first quarter. Spagnuola, a senior, scored the top-seeded Cougars’ last six points in the final 76 seconds of a 54-47 win over No. 5 Hauppauge in a Suffolk Class AA girls basketball semifinal at Stony Brook University.
Two-time defending Class AA champion Commack (21-2) will try to earn its third straight title on Thursday when it faces No. 3 Central Islip at Stony Brook.
“Kim was our only kid making shots early on,” Commack coach Denis Conroy said. “She saved our butts.”
“Today was just my day,” Shalhoub said. “After my first shot went in, I could feel it.”
Commack, which led 40-38 after three quarters, got three-pointers from Shalhoub and Casey Hearns (eight points) to take a 46-38 lead.
Senior Katie Murphy hit a three-pointer with 3:22 remaining for Hauppauge’s first points of the fourth quarter, making the score 46-41. The Eagles got within five points three more times, but Spagnuola, a senior point guard, came through at the end for Commack.
Spagnuola, who guarded Murphy in an intense one-on-one matchup most of the game, hit a layup with 1:16 left and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 27.5 seconds. She finished with 12 points, eight in the second half.
Murphy ended a great career with 16 hard-earned points and five assists. Senior Kayla Petre added 10 points for the Eagles.
Commack went 12-for-22 from the foul line but was 8-for-11 in the second half. Hauppauge (20-3) was 17-for-32 for the game but only 2-for-7 in the fourth quarter.
“The team that plays the hardest this time of year,” Spagnuola said, “is usually the team that’s going to win.”