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St. John the Baptist uses defense to grind out win over Sewanhaka

St. John the Baptist's Cara McCormack dribbles the

St. John the Baptist's Cara McCormack dribbles the ball upcourt against Sewanhaka during Suffolk Shootout Tournament at Northport on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With dynamic point guard Cara McCormack leading the way, the St. John the Baptist girls basketball team has proved tough to stop on the offensive end.

On Monday afternoon, the shots were not falling early for the Cougars, forcing them to try to win in a different way, and they were up to the task.

McCormack had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds, and St. John the Baptist played stingy defense at the other end in a 48-36 win over Sewanhaka in the Suffolk Shootout at Northport. Abby Gress added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Jen Gaffney added seven points in the win.

“It shows that we can handle adversity and we can play through our tough patches and just keep working hard,” McCormack said. “We played hard on defense.”

“We're gritty. We fight. We play good defense, get stops and convert them into baskets,” coach Kate Gordon said.

St. John the Baptist (8-1) brought constant pressure and forced a series of early turnovers to take a 22-15 advantage into halftime. The lead could have been larger if not for some missed open shots and some good defensive play by Sewanhaka (2-5).

“I told them in the locker room, this isn't about Xs and Os right now,” Gordon said. “This is about finding out your identity moving into league [play]. When we're not playing well, it has to be a grind on the defensive side of the ball, which is something that we pride ourselves in.”

“We struggled a little bit at first, but got into the game once we started pressing a bit more and forced them to turn the ball over,” Gaffney said.

In addition to the press, the defensive effort was keyed by Gress leading the way on the boards and Meghan White’s work on top of the Cougars’ zone defense.

“Meghan White always getting it done on the defensive end and getting tips and touches so we can run and score in transition is really helpful,” McCormack said. “We showed, no matter what happens, we can come out on top if we work hard."

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