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Loss can't diminish Sachem East's great season

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - On the longest bus ride of their high school careers, the girls from Sachem East watched "Mean Girls."

"Classic girls' movie, right?" senior center Caitlin Hopkins said. Her smile was forced; her tears weren't.

The Flaming Arrows would've rewritten the final scene to their season, but not the main plot line. They didn't win the state Federation Class AA title - perennial power Christ the King had too many answers in the fourth quarter Sunday - but the greatest season in school history was their own version of a classic.

"This is the only rough spot for this trip, but it was a spectacular season," coach Matt Brisson said after Sachem East's 56-47 loss in a game the Flaming Arrows led by two points after three quarters. "I'm concerned that this moment doesn't put a damper on a wonderful year. I want them to look back on this as a celebration of this season."

When asked how he expressed this to his players in an on-court huddle before the awards ceremony, Brisson got choked up as he looked to the sky and said, "It's the French in me, my father used to say."

Brisson's father, a 1955 Sachem graduate who died in 1987, "was a huge girls basketball fan. A huge Sachem fan," said Brisson, knowing his father would've enjoyed this season.

In the school's sixth year since the celebrated split of the state's largest school district, Sachem East brought home its first Long Island and state championships. Brisson didn't want his kids to forget it. "I don't want any semblance of failure to stick with them," he said.

Hopkins, one of three senior starters, said the message was received. "It's hard right this minute because we wanted to win so bad," she said. "But we've never been here and we know when we get back to school there will be a sense of accomplishment . . . I mean, New York state champions. Wow!"

Hopkins said the team bonded on the trip, beginning with the bus ride. "A team dinner at Applebee's. A lot of music blasted from our iPods. A lot of dancing in our rooms," she said. "We had a lot of fun together."

Not a mean girl in the bunch.

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