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SportsHigh SchoolGirls Basketball

Sachem East shows tremendous poise in winning championship

There was a lot of hype for the Sachem East-North Babylon game and it certainly lived up to the billing. Almost everyone in basketball circles expected these teams to meet for the Suffolk Class AA championship. They were two of the better teams on Long Island all season with a nationally recognized  superstar. Bria Hartley and Kristen Doherty were both selected to the Nike WBCA-All Star game.


It was a classic game as North Babylon never went away, but Sachem East got the win, 72-69. Every time Sachem East attempted to pull away, Hartley wouldn’t let the Bulldogs wilt as she scored a Long Island playoff record 51 points.


Sachem East showed tremendous poise and composure. Several times during the game it looked like the Flaming Arrows might not be able to recover as the momentum went the way of North Babylon. Hartley refused to lose and it would have been so easy for Sachem East to cave in.


“We just had to keep our composure,” the Boston College-bound Doherty said. “The whole game we were up and then we were down in the fourth quarter. We realized we had to keep playing our game. Bria went on runs, but we came out on top. Against a team like that and with all the people here, this is the most amazing game I’ve played in.”


Said Caitlin Hopkins: “We all looked at each other and said we’re not losing. That’s our mentality. We had to stay calm and keep our poise. Everyone played amazing. I couldn’t ask more of my team. We wouldn’t allow ourselves to crumble under that pressure.”


Sachem East had a 14-point lead in the second quarter and it was trimmed to one at halftime. Sachem East led by as many as 13 in the third quarter. It was a seven-point game with 4:50 left. Hartley cut it to 59-57 with 4:27 left. Stephanie Burrow answered with a layup off a pass from Caitlin Hopkins. Seventh-grader Brianna Jones hit a jumper to tie the score at 63 with 2:30 left and it went back-and-forth with Sachem East either leading by two or the score was tied until North Babylon took a 68-67 lead on a three-pointer by Hartley with 1:10 left.


There was the Hopkins-Burrow combo again as Burrow stepped up for the second consecutive game as Hopkins fed Burrow for a 69-68 lead with 52 seconds left. Hartley went 1-for-2 from the foul line with 47 seconds left to tie the score at 69 before Doherty hit two free throws with 45 seconds left to make it 71-69.


It could have been easy for Doherty to try and answer Hartley but she did a terrific job of not getting into the 1-on-1 battle. She took just one shot from the field in the fourth quarter and just five in the second half. She didn’t force anything and looked to get the ball up court and it usually resulted into a lot of open layups for Hopkins.


Hartley shot 18-for-37 from the field, including five three-pointers. She scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. The next highest scorer for the Bulldogs was Charise Wilson with six points.


“Bria played absolutely amazing,” Doherty said. “You can’t take anything away she did. She’s a great player. We knew we couldn’t stop her. All great players score. All we had to do was just make sure when she made a basket that we score ourselves.”


 But Sachem East had more experience and a better supporting cast. Doherty had 24 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. She went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Hopkins had 20 points and 12 rebounds.


“My team really stepped up,” Doherty said. “My team wanted this so bad. We’ve been waiting a very long time.  Caitlin played absolutely amazing. This season she has stepped up huge in big spots where we needed her. Over the years, she has gotten so much better. I’m so proud of her.”


Said Ferguson, who had 11 points and five steals: “It was such a huge team effort. No one could have played better than they did. We had a good lead, but they came right back. We settled down. We have been waiting years for this. We finally got it.”


Sachem East was very complementary to Hartley after the game. Even before questions were asked about Hartley’s performance, they gave her effusive praise. Hartley also came out about 15 minutes after the game ended to congratulate Doherty and embraced her. She then signed autographs for a few kids.


Sachem East lost to North Babylon in the final two years ago and then went undefeated before losing in the championship game to Copiague. The Flaming Arrows finally got their championship last night.


“It took three years,” Hopkins said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”


Said Sachem East coach Matt Brisson: “This was two of the best teams around.  I’m glad to turn in the bridesmaid gown for the real deal.”


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