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Trapping defense leads to offense for Mackenzie Szlosek, Sachem East

Sachem East junior point guard Mackenzie Szlosek discussed the Flaming Arrows' strong defense in a 52-33 victory over Brentwood on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Credit: Newsday / Laura Amato)

The Sachem East girls basketball team got defensive on Friday afternoon.

After watching their 10-point halftime lead against Brentwood turn into a one-point deficit with nearly three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, the Flaming Arrows knew something had to change. So, Sachem East locked in on defense, working a full and half-court trap en route to a 52-33 victory in Suffolk I.

“We value [defense] the most and we’d let up a little,” said junior point guard Mackenzie Szlosek, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “As soon as our defense kicks in, our offense starts to go, shots start to fall, and we get more confident.”

Sachem East (5-3) struggled to find the hoop against Brentwood’s zone coming out of halftime. The Flaming Arrows were held scoreless for more than four minutes as the Indians opened the third on an 11-point run, capped by Tyla Michael’s basket with 3:28 left to give Brentwood a 23-22 lead.

That didn’t last long.

Sixteen seconds later, Ashley Pavan put Sachem East back on top and the Flaming Arrows settled into their defense in the waning minutes of the quarter.

“We got back to how we play together,” said Pavan, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. “Our trapping worked so well. We’ve worked so many hours in the gym doing that and it helped us.”

Sachem East didn’t trail again, forcing turnovers and pushing the ball in transition. The Flaming Arrows wrapped the third on an 11-3 run, allowing one field goal in the final two minutes, before outscoring Brentwood 19-7 in the fourth quarter.

“We’re a very athletic, fast team,” Szlosek said. “That’s how we beat other teams, we beat them in transition.”

Szlosek led the charge, directing the Flaming Arrows’ fast-paced play and finding her teammates, including Meredith Caviglia, who scored all five of her points in the fourth. Szlosek’s presence on the boards also helped limit Brentwood (2-5) to one-and-done possessions.

“You don’t see many girls get off the floor like her,” coach Tom Erb said. “She’s one of the best rebounding point guards in Suffolk County, if not point guard in general.”

Erb credited the Flaming Arrows for their collective second-half mindset, slowing down Brentwood and proving the cliché true; basketball is a game of runs.

“We talked about it, offense isn’t always going to be there,” Erb said. “It’s a game of runs, so when it got down, can we get a stop and score and go on our own run? That’s what we did.”

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