It takes little more than brief observation to tell that Caysea Cohen loves the razzle-dazzle. The Ward Melville star has a flair to her game – a few wild stunts short of Globetrotter status, but Cohen does seemingly get a kick out of flashing the slick handle.
“I’ve gotta admit, I do,” she said. “I love the feeling I get from faking someone out with a fancy move.”
Someone. Anyone. No one. Cohen drew some laughs from the home crowd midway through the third quarter yesterday when, taking the ball up court, she pulled off a crossover and went behind the back… without a defender within four Yao Mings of her.
Somewhere there’s a ghost icing a sprained ankle. All the better that the victim of that move was air, since Cohen had shaken up the Kings Park defense enough times already. The point guard zigged and zagged her way to 20 points and had seven steals, five rebounds and five assists, leading No. 6 Ward Melville to a 53-39 win in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA playoffs.
Cohen’s grandparents, Tom and Terry Tarkington, enjoyed the show (and showmanship) from the front row. The two make trips from East Northport to all of Ward Melville’s home games. “She's worth it," her grandmother said. "It’s always fun watching her because she puts more effort and energy into it than anyone I know. Although, we are slightly biased.”
Meagan Murtagh added 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for Ward Melville (12-5).
“Those two work very well together,” Patriots coach Lawrence Combs said of his center and floor general. “Meagan has improved and was knocking down that mid-range jump shot, and Caysea’s ball-handling and ability to see the floor is tremendous.”
Ward Melville dominated from the get-go and broke the game open late in the third quarter. Kim Geiger’s corner three made it 32-13, then Cohen went on a 7-0 run that included the conversion of a three-point play.
Daniele Buoncore scored 16 points and Kristen Picciano had seven for No. 11 Kings Park (14-5).
The Patriots took control immediately, opening the game on a 14-0 run and, despite a shaky fourth quarter, never really were in danger of relinquishing the lead.
“We knew we had to come out with a lot of intensity and we did,” Murtagh said. “Now we’re one step closer to where we want to get.”
Step 1 was cracking Kings Park’s 2-3 zone. “There were some gaps in the zone,” Cohen said, “so we were looking to work it into the middle and find Meagan.” One of those Murtagh-in-the-middle plays resulted in a jumper that made it 21-5 with 6:42 left in the first half.
Ward Melville’s lead grew to 48-19 with 6:39 remaining when Tara O’Hern drilled a three-pointer. The sophomore celebrated her 16th birthday with five points, five rebounds and two assists. Madison Gorman added four points and two steals, and Vanessa Pryor had three assists.
“It’s a lot of fun because we knew there were doubters,” said Geiger, who had six rebounds. “Coming off those losses to Sachem East, a lot of people probably didn’t even think we’d make the playoffs.”
The Patriots, who’ll face No. 3 Riverhead on Wednesday, have won seven straight since a Jan. 24 blowout loss to the Flaming Arrows.
“We had a long conversation after that second Sachem East game about composure, leadership and where this team wants to go,” Combs said. “They all said they want to get back to where we were two years ago. We got to the semifinals, and they want to get there and beyond.”