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Sachem East's Doherty undeterred by injury, doubters

It has not been Kristen Doherty's month.

That pesky partially torn hamstring had mostly healed by mid-December and the crutches, at least, could be turned into firewood. But Doherty missed two games because of the injury, and for a five-year starter, it feels like a lot more.

Then there's the magazine.

Walk into the main office at Sachem East High School and prepare to check your bearings. This is Doherty's house, and it has been since the senior shooting guard made her mark years ago. But the reading material tries to indicate otherwise.

Piled in a neat stack, next to the chairs reserved for tardy students and visitors who haven't passed security's muster, are copies of ESPNRise - the publication about, well, athletes on the rise.

Look at the cover and Bria Hartley, the North Babylon basketball darling and Sachem East's biggest competition, glares right back. She's not smiling. From the angle of the photograph, she looks about 10 feet tall, too. The headline spells out "Queen B" in looping cursive.

Doherty has, of course, seen the cover. When asked about it, she smiles mischievously. "Yeah, well, we were in it the month before," she said.

That's Doherty in a nutshell. Yes, she acknowledged, things haven't gone her way in the past couple of weeks, but it's not the end of the world. Her rehab is ahead of schedule, she recently signed to play at Boston College and she's excited about ushering in this season's team - a crew of mostly young players who, according to coach Matt Brisson, look up to her as a role model.

"The team is so much fun and we get along great," Doherty said from the food court at Smith Haven Mall. Doherty, dressed in a Sachem warm-up suit, was there with her teammates, though they temporarily left her for the comforts of retail.

But despite her easygoing nature, there is work to be done. The All-State lefty with the sweet pull-up jumper has earned plenty of accolades, but not the one that matters: Suffolk champion. North Babylon, which won two years ago, looks primed to return to championship level.

"We were devastated when we lost [in the postseason]," Doherty said. "The team is young and it's inexperienced, but all I want is to finally win it."

Even if, it seems, she has to force her hamstring into submission. She said she felt no pain and would try to play against St. John the Baptist in a few days. She did. Doherty led her team with 33 points and then talked about how relieved she was.

She wasn't the only one.

A season without Doherty wasn't something Brisson wanted to contemplate. "It's dramatic, having a kid like Kristen on the floor and then not having her," he said.

Doherty is known by scouts and opponents for above-average intelligence and her ability to see the floor. Brisson thinks she'll make a phenomenal coach someday.

Doherty, he said, isn't just a player, she's part of a "cultural phenomenon" in Suffolk County - now dominated by athletes who are making it big on the court. Girls such as Doherty and Hartley, whose names meet in print as much as they do on the scoresheets.

"She's a special kid," Brisson said of Doherty. "I'm so spoiled."

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