Bria Hartley has had a Division I player as a teammate the past few seasons. The North Babylon senior point guard doesn't have that situation this season. The Bulldogs have eight players that are freshmen or younger, including two eighth graders who started Saturday.
Hartley still kept passing the ball to her teammates to get them in the flow of the game, but once it got close, Hartley took over. UConn-bound Hartley scored 31 points for North Babylon in a 60-43 girls basketball win over Sachem East at Herricks in the Hoops to Remember Tournament to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I want to get more teammates involved more," Hartley said. "I don't want them to always depend on me. In tough games, I'm going to get guarded hard. I want to work them into it and then when I have to score, step up and score."
She did that Saturday. Sachem East (0-2) trailed 42-34 late in the third quarter and after Charise Wilson scored to extend North Babylon's lead to 44-34, Hartley turned a steal into a layup. Over the next few minutes she also scored on a jumper, on a drive to the basket and on a pair of free throws, the last to cap an 11-3 run and give North Babylon (1-0) a 53-37 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Although Hartley scored 31, she didn't force anything, something that was noticed by UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma, who stopped by to see his future player in action.
"She's just content going with the flow and getting everyone involved," Auriemma said. "It becomes an eight-point game and she scores 10 straight. It's typical Bria. That's how she was all summer when I watched her play. Then when the game's on the line, she takes over."
The game was supposed to feature two of the top players on the Island, but Sachem East played without Boston College-bound Kristen Doherty, who was on crutches with a partially torn left hamstring. Freshman Meagan Doherty, Kristen's sister and a starter, was also sidelined with a partially torn left MCL.
"Coming into this morning, I had no idea what we would do," Sachem East coach Matt Brisson said. "North Babylon is a great program. Our eighth and ninth graders are completely untested. They were thrust into this game having no idea what they were getting into. I thought they handled themselves very well."
Caitlin Hopkins led Sachem East with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
These teams are considered the top two in Suffolk Class AA and both are counting on contributions from very young players.
"We still don't know who our major contributors are going to be," North Babylon coach Mike Petre said. "We certainly have a lot of work to do."